Ginastera Orchestral Works

Author: 
Lionel Salter

Ginastera Orchestral Works

  • Concerto for Harp and Orchestra
  • Estancia
  • Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1
  • Concerto for Harp and Orchestra
  • Estancia
  • Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1

Like Bartok, for whom he had the greatest admiration, Ginastera started out from a purely nationalist folk idiom, absorbed and sublimated it, and finally developed his own individual style—in his case, a form of dodecaphony which he reached via a phase of what might be called romantic expressionism. The earliest of his works here, the dances from the ballet Estancia, written in 1941 at the age of 25, is very conspicuously nationalistic—appropriately enough for its subject, life on an Argentinian ranch—making its effects largely by vigorous cumulative repetitions particularly in the macho jousting of the final ''Malambo''. The work is brilliantly written for the orchestra, extremely well played, and excellently recorded; but once its heady excitement is over, the music most likely to remain in the mind is the peaceful and beautiful ''Dance of the wheat''.
The Harp Concerto, composed in 1956 but not premiered until nine years later, is one of Ginastera's most rewarding compositions, though there is some inconsistency between the largely tonal first movement, in which strong and urgent rhythmic sections for orchestra contrast with quieter and calmer passages for the solo harp, and the more dissonant finale (led into by a lengthy harp cadenza with the most subtle dynamic nuances) which, with bursts of solo percussion reverts to Argentine folk rhythms. In between comes a strikingly Bartokian slow movement alike in its serpentine string opening and the 'night music' with mysterious murmurings behind the harp. Nancy Allen is an admirable soloist in this; I personally would not have minded if her part had been a little more prominent.
The Piano Concerto of 1961 is so utterly different in style that it is hard to credit that it is by the same composer. Based on the opening three rolling chords which make up the basic tone-row, it is freely dodecaphonic (the third movement also making much play with transpositions of the BACH formula) and, in its outer movements, violently aggressive, with exacting bravura writing for the piano—thrown off with panache by Oscar Tarrago. A contrast to the prevailing rowdiness is provided by the 'hallucinatory' scherzo, whose spidery scuttlings and ghostly twitterings suggest a parallel with the paintings of Klee (another of Ginastera's inspirations).'

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