"Beauty is the emergence of a spiritual climate in which each artist is transfigured through the impulse of creation. In this climate, the work that springs forth from the depths of his soul, combining personal and shared elements of humanity, is purified and becomes translucent and clear. It becomes universal." --Alberto Ginastera
A few years ago I reviewed a Naxos recording of Ginastera's cello concertos, and I remember the back of the jewel box saying, "Alberto Ginastera was one of the most admired and respected musical voices of the twentieth century, who successfully fused the strong traditional influences of his national heritage with experimental, contemporary, and classical techniques." That made me feel rather uninformed at the time because I could only remember hearing a single piece of music by the man before that, an old recording of the Harp Concerto with Zabaleta. Maybe the composer is finally getting his due.
Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983) was an Argentinean composer who studied with Aaron Copland and among whose students was tango composer Astor Piazzolla. What surprised me in reading about Ginastera is that an old rock track familiar to me, Emerson, Lake & Palmer's "Toccata," the group adapted from Ginastera's First Piano Concerto. It's remarkable how things in this world are so intertwined, yet we may not even know about them.
Anyway, what we have in the present disc is a 2016 celebration of the one-hundredth anniversary of Ginastera's birth. There are four pieces represented on the disc, starting with the biggest (orchestra and soloist), longest (about twenty-five minutes), and arguably most popular of his works, the aforementioned Harp Concerto, Op. 25, this time performed by Yolanda Kondonassis, harp, accompanied by Raphael Jimenez and the Oberlin Orchestra. Ginastera wrote it in 1956 and revised it in 1968.
The next three selections are brief duets or solos, starting with Pampeana No. 1, Op. 16 (1946), played by Gil Shaham, violin, and Orli Shaham, piano. They play it as a sort of slow, intricate lament, the two performers engaging in a conversation neither old-fashioned nor completely modern yet always compelling. This is modern music that doesn't sound at all modern nor dated and gets especially heated about halfway through. Beautifully executed.
Then there's the Sonata for Guitar, Op. 47 (1976), with Jason Vieaux, guitar, and Danzas Argentinas, Op. 2 (1937), with Orli Shaham, piano. They, too, appear well rendered, the soloists providing virtuosity, color, passion, and sentiment to the music in equal measure.
Incidentally, the booklet notes contains several insightful, well-written essays on Ginastera and his style. They are worth a read.
Producers Yolanda Kondonassis and Erica Brenner and engineers Paul Eachus and Lawrence Rock recorded the music at the Warner Concert Hall, Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Oberlin, Ohio in November 2015 and February 2016 and at the Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, NY in February 2016. The sound obtained in the concerto is nicely focused and wide spread, with a moderate orchestral depth, good dynamics, and a fairly decent balance among the instruments. Nice bass and percussion, too. Fun stuff. There is a light ambient glow that slightly softens the sonic definition, but it's only a minor veiling and actually enhances most of the music. The duet and solos also sound realistic enough, the violin and piano combination never seeming too close or too distant. The solos, though, I found a bit too near, even if their closeness increases the clarity of the instruments.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow: