Alberto Ginastera: One Hundred
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
"[Yolanda Kondonassis'] performance abounds with affectionate detail, particularly in the third-movement cadenza, which she plays with a keen sense of dramatic timing and a range of colour that's breathtaking. The orchestra of the Oberlin Conservatory under Raphael Jiménez provide solid support."
"All the works are performed with a dazzling virtuosity, a flamboyant rhythmic vivacity, and a mastery of instrumental color . . . this disc will be a definitive reference."
- PASSION MUSIQUE ET CULTURE
"The album is a masterpiece. Kondonassis's playing in the concerto is rhythmically exact, yet passionate. It is mesmerizing... The Shahams are two of the most inspiring performers of our day, and their performance on this album simply adds another feather to what must be an already heavily-plumed cap... Jason Vieaux's playing captures the ear with equal parts charisma and wistfulness. Like the other soloists, Vieaux is at the top of his field, and he ties the album's performances together with uncanny skill... A wonderful overview of Ginastera's music." CLEVELANDCLASSICAL.com
"BEST OF 2017" --Sirius XM Radio
Top Customer Reviews
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.
Ms. Kondonassis plays it with sensitivity and feeling, bringing out its more Romantic qualities of lyricism and melody. Yet she never shies from adding sparks to the livelier interludes. The orchestra play with enthusiasm, Jimenez providing a good rhythmic punch throughout the work's more-energetic segments.
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.
John J. Puccio
"I am no longer searching for a national style but a personal style," said Ginastera looking back on a career that is the perfect musical expression of Jorge Luis Borges' 1951 essay "The Argentine Writer and Tradition". "Our patrimony is the universe;" says Borges, "we should essay all themes, and we cannot limit ourselves to purely Argentine subjects in order to be Argentine." Though Ginastera famously divided his music into three periods, Objective Nationalism, Subjective Nationalism and Neo-Expressionism, the general move from simple folkloric works to a more international, avant garde style did not remove folklore from the equation. Indeed, the relatively late Guitar Sonata from 1976 is replete with Cuecha and Nambicuara melodies and what Ginastera himself (channeling his inner music reviewer, perhaps) called "the strong, bold rhythms of the music of the pampas.*" The Guitar Sonata is not at all a doctrinaire post-War twelve-tone work, but rather a work of syncretism. There's even a quote from Wagner's Meistersinger in the witty Scherzo. Writing a Sonata in 1976 was an act of independence; to include such a fun Scherzo even more so. One of the things I love about Jason Vieaux's performance, which is the best I've heard, is how he pulls out all the stops in this movement without any sense of losing control. Comedy is famously hard, and it's hardest of all to pull off in music. There's a lot of layers here: Vieaux carefully negotiates the complex technical logistics while putting across Ginastera's take-off of Wagner's not-as-subtle put-down of Sixtus Beckmesser. Vieaux makes the whole Sonata sound completely organic, and this fine performance only emphasizes the importance of this piece in the Classical Guitar literature.
It's a stylistic step back to the early (1937) Danzas Argentinas, op. 2, played beautifully by pianist Orli Shaham. I've commented before that Ginastera and Villa-Lobos moved in opposite directions (I quote myself: "The career of Villa-Lobos is a retrograde inversion of Ginastera's. Villa went from modernism to nationalism, Ginastera the reverse.") Villa perhaps was Benjamin Button in this scenario.
But in the late 1930s, the two were in sync with each other. Villa's Ciclo Brasileiro, written in 1936-37, shares the same pianistic textures, explores similar rhythms, also flirts with bi-tonality, and shares similar "Indianist" characteristics. While Ginastera has introduced modernist tropes into his music by 1947's Pampeana no. 1, op. 16, played here by Orli Shaham and her bother, the great violinist Gil, this music is not at all difficult on the ears. That's partly because of Ginastera's tendency to call back to 19th century virtuosi, especially Paganini, in much the same way Villa-Lobos quotes Puccini or Rimsky-Korsakov in the middle of otherwise very progressive music. It's also, as the excellent liner essay by Oberlin Conservatory Professor James O'Leary demonstrates, because Ginastera learned from his teacher Aaron Copland to temper modernism with the simple, open, honest music of "the common man". One of the most useful parts of O'Leary's commentary is the light it shines on the political aspects of these issues which seem at first purely musical. Ginastera's experience, like Copland's and Villa-Lobos's, had a political component every bit as fraught with difficulty, if not as dangerous in the end, as the experience of Prokofiev and Shostakovich.
Less so than the workmanlike Villa-Lobos Harp Concerto of 1953, Ginastera's 1956 Harp Concerto, op. 25, is an obvious star turn for the composer and for generations of grateful harpists. "He wrote our piece", says Yolanda Kondonassis in her introduction to the album. It has a Bachian combination of erudite structure and joyful invention. Kondonassis, who has performed the work nearly 200 times, has mastered this music, and it shows in this completely secure but playful performance. She has superb support from the excellent Oberlin Orchestra under Raphael Jimenez.
This is really one of the most exciting recording projects I've come across this year. Everyone involved has connected to this marvellous music in a way that doesn't always get communicated to audiences quite like this. Kudos to the Oberlin Conservatory for providing both the academic foundation and sophisticated technical and marketing support for such an auspicious celebration.