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David Hurwitz, January 2015

Gisèle Ben-Dor originally recorded this disc for Conifer, magnificently both in terms of playing and sound, so it’s wonderful that Naxos has rescued these performances from oblivion. © 2015 Read complete review

Jean-Yves Duperron
Classical Music Sentinel, October 2009

If you’ve never heard music by this fabulous composer from Argentina, then don’t miss your chance and get this wonderful cd. He has often been considered the most important South American composer of the 20th century, very much admired by Copland, and actually sounds quite a bit like Copland.

Imagine Copland’s style (big sky country, Kansas, cowboys, folk tunes, big open fields, cattle drives, etc.), but add to all that rhythms and folk melodies from Argentina and you’ll get a clear picture of what his music sounds like.

The ballet Estancia in particular goes from beautiful, nocturnal, evocative melodies to frantic, driving rhythms all painting a clear picture of life on a cattle ranch in Argentina. This performance really gets inside the music here and delivers a thrilling experience. I tell you, if you don’t feel like jumping up and down or dancing around your living room during the last movement of Estancia, well something’s not right. Great music!

James Miller
Fanfare, June 2007

"If you have any interest in Ginastera, especially in his earlier "ethnic" period and you missed the Conifer CD, Naxos has given you a second chance. May this excellent CD stick around longer than the Conifer did!"

Hubert Culot
MusicWeb International, March 2007

Apologies for giving the game away from the start, but this re-issue of a long-deleted recording of Ginastera’s ballet scores, once available on Conifer Classics, is particularly welcome. Not only do we hear the complete scores, but the performances and the recording are really first-class, defying the use of superlatives.

The suites drawn from both ballets are quite well-known by now. I suspect that many music-lovers know the suites from Eugene Goossens’ long-deleted recordings made for Everest, coincidentally with the London Symphony Orchestra. The complete scores, however, have long remained unheard and – for that matter – unrecorded. A complete Panambí has been recorded earlier by the Poznań Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Andrzej Borejko (once available on Largo 5122); but the present recorded performance undoubtedly supersedes it. That said, the Polish performance usefully filled a gap in Ginastera’s discography at the time it was recorded and released. As far as Estancia is concerned, this is the first recording of the complete score.

Panambí Op.1 was completed in 1937, and is thus Ginastera’s first acknowledged work. In fact he later rescued some earlier works such as Impresiones de la Puna for flute and string quartet and this has been recorded on several occasions (BIS CD-175 and Dorian DOR-90202). The libretto is based on a legend of love and magic drawn from the traditions of the Guaraní Indians, a tribe from northern Argentina. As such, parallels may be drawn with some works by Latin-American composers, such as Revueltas, Chavez and Villa Lobos. The music of Panambí draws on a number of influences that may be quite easily spotted. One hears echoes from Stravinsky, Debussy and Bartók but the complete score displays the young composer’s assurance in blending these influences into a highly personal whole. Moreover, there are many felicitous orchestral touches such as the beautiful writing for horns in Escena [track 5], the atmospheric introduction and the superbly evocative closing section El Amanecer (“Dawn”), as well as some brilliantly scored primitive dances. This tale of magic and mystery obviously fired the young composer’s imagination, and drew some highly accomplished music from him. A quite impressive Opus 1, and a work of which any young composer could be proud.

Composed several years later, Estancia Op.8 shows how far the composer progressed over the years. The music is more personal, less indebted to, say, Copland, although some might be tempted to compare it to Rodeo. For one, the score is much more structured than Copland’s colourful romp. It opens with beautiful dawn music and ends with more dawn music. In between come a series of songs and dances that provide welcome contrast. The whole is brilliantly capped by a general dance, the celebrated Malambo. The complete ballet includes parts narrated and sung by a bass-baritone, which may be a reason why the score has often been disregarded. Again, there are many fine orchestral touches throughout this relatively long work. I particularly like La Doma (“Rodeo”), the beautifully atmospheric and evocative Idilio crepuscular (“Twilight Idyll”) and La Noche: Nocturno (oh, those beautiful horns again!); but there is so much more to enjoy. This is undoubtedly a major score from Ginastera’s nationalistic period.

As mentioned earlier in this review, these performances are just splendid and unlikely to be surpassed. The London Symphony Orchestra play to the manner-born, and Gisèle Ben-Dor conducts vital readings of these colourful, rhythmically alert scores. At the same time she remains attentive to the more lyrical sections and she conducts these with feeling but without undue sentimentality. These scores and readings teem with life-asserting energy, but never at the expense of subtlety and refinement. This is a self-commending release restoring – hopefully for a long time – these indispensable readings of two of Ginastera’s most readily attractive scores.

Guy Rickards
Gramophone, February 2007

It was characteristically bold step by the 21-year-old Ginastera to make his Op 1 an ambitiously scored orchestral ballet rather than a modest suite or chamber piece. Of course, he had written such works - mostly withdrawn and destroyed - but the one-act choreographic legend Panambi(1935-37) was several strides forward and as impressive a compositional debut as any.

Drawn from an Amerindian tribal legend, the plot concerns the love of Guirahu for the chiefs daughter, Panambi, and the machinations of the local sorcerer, who also desires her. A battle between good and evil plays out across a single night, opening with wonderful, impressionistic moonlight and ending with a radiant hymn to the dawn. In between, the expertly scored music is largely restrained, though with some electrifying episodes along the way.

Panambi betrays Ginastera's formative influences clearly, The Rite of Spring and Ravel in particular. The vividly achieved, primitivist atmosphere (not unlike the music of Revueltas) necessary for the story is absent from his follow-up ballet, Estancia (1941). Some of the latter's music is so well known, thanks to the popular Suite, that it may surprise that this recording of the whole was a premiere. Absent, too, is the self-consciousness of Panambi as a public statement; in Estancia one can hear Ginastera relax as he whips up a greater storm.

Gisele Ben-Dor and the LSO are splendid throughout, sounding as impressive as they did to Lionel Salter eight years ago. In Panambi they are superior to the Poznan Philharmonic Orchestra's premiere version for Largo (their version of the Estancia Suite was mediocre but they include the wordless choral parts in Panambi). Luis Gaeta makes a splendid soloist in Estancia. Recommended.

Giv Cornfield, Ph.D.
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, January 2007

Concertgoers and record collectors are familiar with excerpts from these two ballets, but this recording brings us the complete scores, including the narration in Estancia. The Uruguayan-born maestra with an Israeli name is a commanding presence in these exotically-scored works from Ginastera's early period. With her Latin-American background, she has a firm grip on the idiom, and the performances and recordings are top-notch. Bravo!

John Sunier
Audiophile Audition, January 2007

Alberto Ginastera, who lived until 1983, is now recognized as one of the most important Argentine composers, along with Astor Piazzolla. Suites from his two ballets have been concert favorites for many years, but this is the world premiere recording of both of his ballets in their entirety. Some of Ginastera's works are in a more atonal style, but these two ballets abound in exotic melody often based on Argentine folk music and popular elements.

Panambi is based on a supernatural legend of the Guarani Indians of northern Argentina. It has a sorcerer, water sprites, warriors and various native festival dances. Some of Ginastera's main influences can be heard in the score: Falla, Stravinsky, Debussy and Bartok. The score intersperses exciting and dynamic dances with percussion with more reflective and impressionistic music.

Estancia deals with the spirit of the Argentine gauchos on the vast pampas. The contrast between the urban dwellers and the people of the pampas is a major element in the scenario of the ballet. It celebrates the various aspects of the activities of a ranch during a typical day. Lines from poet Martin Fierro preface some of the depictions of a gaucho's day on the pampas; these are read and sung by Luis Gaeta. The gaucho's solitude is one of the recurring themes. The final dance of the ballet is the highly repetitious and rhythmic Malambo. (Frankly, I could do without the narration - for which no translation is provided.)

I did an A/B comparison of this new release with the classic Sir Eugene Goossens and the London Symphony versions of the two suites on an Everest/Vanguard three-channel SACD. While that 1974 reissue still holds the edge in the violence quotient for the concluding Malambo, the overall fidelity of the Naxos standard CD is in some ways even superior to the SACD. It also decodes beautifully to surround via ProLogic II, and one gets the entire scores of both ballets for the first time, and at bargain cost.

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