|About this Recording
8.572249 - GINASTERA, A.: Glosses sobre temes de Pau Casals / Variaciones concertantes (London Symphony, Israel Chamber Orchestra, Ben-Dor)
Alberto Ginastera (1916–1983)
Alberto Ginastera’s music, with few exceptions, was clearly characterized by native gauchesco harmonies and rhythms with allusions to the pampas, the picturesque and pastoral ranch lands that identify vast portions of Argentina beyond Buenos Aires and its ring of suburbs. Ginastera was born in Buenos Aires on 11 April 1916 of parents who were second-generation Argentines of Catalonian (Spain) and Lombardian (Italy) ancestry without any known musical antecedents.
Ginastera entered the National Conservatory in Buenos Aires in 1936, studying composition with José André (1881–1944), a native Argentine who had studied from 1911 to 1914 at the Schola Cantorum in Paris with the French composers Vincent d’Indy and Albert Roussel. To André can be traced Ginastera’s early French influences and, according to Ginastera himself, the scores which made the most profound effects upon him at the time were Claude Debussy’s La mer and Igor Stravinsky’s Le sacre du printemps.
The national movement in Argentine music was initiated in the 1890s by Alberto Williams (1862–1952), with whom Ginastera studied for a time before entering the National Conservatory, and the movement had already matured as Ginastera blossomed musically in the 1930s. Some two years before graduating from the National Conservatory with highest honours in 1938, Ginastera composed his first acknowledged work, the ballet Panambí, “a choreographic legend in one act” based on Argentine gauchesco folklore. This was followed in 1940 by a second ballet score, Estancia, which led Aaron Copland to declare in a 1942 article in Modern Music that no discussion of Argentine music could be complete without considering Ginastera’s compelling, though at the time, few, contributions.
Ginastera achieved greater hemispheric recognition when he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1942 for studies in the United States from December 1945 to March 1947. From about the time of his Variaciones concertantes in 1953, the composer’s international stature blossomed, resulting in the highly-prized commission from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., among many others, for the inaugural production in its opera house. Beatrix Cenci, the composer’s final work of a trilogy based on historic figures, had its première there on 10 September 1971. In the same year he settled in Geneva with his second wife, Argentine cellist Aurora Nátola, living there until his death on 25 June 1983—a dozen years punctuated still with compositions of profundity, one, or really two, of which were Glosses on Themes of Pablo Casals, Opp. 46 and 48.
Glosses on Themes of Pablo Casals for String Orchestra and String Quintet, Op. 46, was composed in Geneva in response to a joint commission the composer received from the Festival Casals of Puerto Rico in celebration of the centenary of Pablo Casals’s birth and from the Puerto Rico Committee for the 1976 American Bicentennial in celebration of America’s independence from Great Britain.
Pablo Casals, who died in 1973, was a Catalan cellist without peer in his prime. His performance skills were legendary. The Glosses commission and the music it drew from the composer became something quite dear to its creator, who, for publication of the work by Boosey & Hawkes, wrote “Composer’s Notes” that read in part:
Glosses is in five movements. The Introducció makes allusion to a Caribbean legend: the watchman’s song, fireworks and chorus of praise to the Virgin of Montserrat. The thematic reference here is to Casals’s sacred choral work, Oració a la verge de Montserrat (Prayer to the Virgin of Montserrat), composed in 1959. The second movement Romanç is an idyllic, serene landscape recalling Tres Estrofas de amor (Three verses of love), a setting of verses by the Spanish poet Tomás Blanco, composed by Casals in 1958 and dedicated to his wife, Puerto Rican cellist Marta Montanez. Sardanes brings forth wisps of the far-off sounds of an infinite number of sardanes, the national dance of Catalonia that is elegantly and solemnly executed in a circle. In the nocturnal and magical atmosphere of the fourth-movement Cant, amid the bird-song one can hear the theme of the Catalonian folk-tune, Cant dell Ocells (Song of the Birds), that Casals immortalized as a performance encore on the cello. In the Conclusió delirant, following allusions to blood and gold, the colours of the Catalan flag, an atypically wild and fantastic sardana breaks out and rushes to a frenzied finale.
As originally composed for string orchestra, with string quintet in lontano (placed in the hall, but apart from the orchestra), Glosses had its première on 14 June 1976 in San Juan by the Interamerican Youth Orchestra of the Centennial Festival Casals, Alexander Schneider conducting. The music, however, soon occupied the composer again. As before, the impetus would come from a virtuoso cellist. Reference again is made to “Composer’s Notes” accompanying the published score:
This new Glosses on Themes by Pablo Casals for Full Orchestra had its première on 24 January 1978 in Washington, D.C., with the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mstislav Rostropovich, and it was later published as the composer’s Opus 48. In this version, the original instrumentation is expanded significantly to include two flutes, piccolo, three oboes (one doubling English horn), three clarinets (one doubling E flat clarinet and bass clarinet), three bassoons (one doubling contrabassoon), four horns, three trumpets (one doubling piccolo trumpet), three trombones, tuba, harp, piano, celesta, harmonium and a battery of some 39 percussion instruments sounded by no fewer than four players.
Variaciones concertantes for Chamber Orchestra, Op. 23, is scored for two flutes (one doubling on piccolo), oboe, two clarinets, bassoon, two horns, trumpet, trombone, timpani, harp and strings. The work is in twelve sections.
The theme is first stated in the upper registers of a single cello over a recurring figure in the harp that is at first the notes of the natural, open strings of the gauchesco guitar (E-A-D-G-B-E’) and later a chromatically altered form of the same chord. An interlude for strings alone serves as a bridge to the seven orchestral variations that follow, each variation highlighting in turn as solo instruments: (1) flute, (2) clarinet, (3) viola, (4) oboe and bassoon, (5) trumpet and trombone in a brief variation that serves as little more than a fanfare for the Moto perpetuo that follows featuring (6) violin and (7) horn. Then, a second interlude, this time for wind choir, leads to a reprise of the theme by a solo string bass (rather than by a solo cello as before) over the same gauchesco figure in the harp. The entire orchestra brings the work to a frenetic conclusion with a virtuosic musical malambo, the archetypical “jousting” dance of the gaucho once described as follows in an 1883 monograph, The Province of Buenos Aires:
The first performance of Variaciones concertantes was given on 2 June 1953 in Buenos Aires by the Orchestra of the Association of the Friends of Music, Igor Markevitch conducting. The work has also gained some circulation on ballet stages around the world, first unveiled in that form on 25 May 1960 at the Teatro Colón under the direction of Horatio Butler.
Close the window