Sunday 16 October 2016

A new recording from Oberlin Music is a fine tribute to Argentinian composer, Alberto Ginastera whose centenary falls this year

The Argentinian composer, Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983) was born in Buenos Aires and studied at the National Conservatory. It was his ballet score, Panambí (1940) that established his early reputation. Although appointed to the National Conservatory staff in 1941 he attended a series of Aaron Copland’s courses at Tanglewood, USA. After this he divided his time between Argentina and abroad, eventually settling in Geneva, Switzerland where he died.

Ginastera compositions range across opera, vocal and choral works, ballet, orchestral works including concertos, chamber and instrumental works, piano and organ pieces as well as film music.

To celebrate Ginastera’s centenary Oberlin Music have released a new recording that brings a selection of the composer’s works that give a real flavour of his compositional output.

Entitled Ginastera: One Hundred the Oberlin Orchestra conducted by Raphael Jiménez with harpist Yolanda Kondonassis  perform the Harp Concerto, violinist Gil Shaham and pianist Orli Shaham  play Pampeana No. 1, guitarist Jason Vieaux  brings us the Sonata for Guitar and Orli Shaham the early Danzas argentinas.

OC 16-04

Raphael Jiménez and the Oberlin Orchestra bring a sparkling, vibrant opening to the Allegro giusto of Ginastera’s Harp Concerto, Op. 25 (1956 rev. 1968) with harpist, Yolanda Kondonassis adding some terrific flourishes. She introduces the slower theme beautifully with some exceptionally finely nuanced, quieter passages. Jiménez’s forces are finely balanced allowing great detail and the soloist to emerge clearly. They soon find a rhythmic pulse, bounding forward through passages of intricate beauty from the soloist around which the orchestra weave a piquant accompaniment with a great atmosphere before the hushed coda.

In the Molto moderato the orchestra open with a deep, mournful melody which slowly weaves and expands. Here are Ginastera’s forward looking harmonies. There are little bird-like motifs from a flute before the soloist joins to bring a slower, gentle theme. Kondonassis brings fine sensitivity and phrasing, developing the music wonderfully. The orchestra creates a restrained tension with some ethereal harp arpeggios from the soloist, often finding a haunting quality.

A series of rising chords from the harp announce the Liberamente capriccioso – Vivace, soon developing through some impressive solo passages from Kondonassis, full of fine musicianship, sensitively probing this music and revealing so much. Beautifully, she exposes every detail, moving through some more dramatic phrases as the orchestra joins to drive ahead with percussion in the Vivace that brings rhythmic, dancing, a very Latin American feel. This soloist finds a terrific, fluent, sparkling panache whilst Jiménez and the orchestra provide a pulsating rhythmic energy, through some vibrant passages to the coda.

The recording is close and warm but allows much detail to emerge. 

Gil and Orli Shaham bring a wonderfully atmospheric performance of Pampeana No. 1, Op. 16 (1947) with the violinist weaving some terrific phrases around the piano, these two bringing a real surety of touch, conjuring some finely idiomatic sounds. Gil Shaham develops some fine textures with some atmospheric, sultry moments from pianist Orli Shaham. They bring a tremendous spirit and drama to the music with vibrant spectacularly virtuosic playing from both in the faster passages. There are some terrific dissonances before the music rushes to a terrific coda.

This performance is a real joy.

Jason Vieaux brings a sultry, strummed opening to Esordio of the Sonata for Guitar, Op.47 (1976) developing through some fine passages with lovely harmonies. Resonant taps on the guitar increase in intensity as the music brings intervals and harmonies that move far from the opening chords.  

There is a quicksilver Scherzo that bounds ahead, brilliantly played here, hurtling in all directions through Ginastera’s wide ranging intervals. There are more taps on the guitar as well as strange little plucked effects. This soloist brilliantly finds so many, colours, textures and effects with, often a great tautness to his phrases as they spring ahead.  

Ginastera’s intervals and harmonies are revealed quite wonderfully in the third movement Canto, Vieaux finding such exquisitely controlled playing with finely controlled tempi.  

The music suddenly finds a terrific rhythmic swing in the Finale, this soloist absolutely superb as he develops through some stunning passages, rhythmic taps adding to the panache and flamboyance of the music right up to the terrific coda.

Ginastera’s earlier three Danzas argentinas, Op. 2 (1937) open with No. 1. Danza del viejo boyero where Orli Shaham brings a fine rhythmic spring, moving quickly through passages of terrific dynamic control and shaping to a fine coda. No. 2. Danza de la moza donosa finds a languid quality not too distant from Satie, especially in the dissonant harmonies. Again Shaham brings exquisite control, teasing out every detail, rising in strength before finding a gentle conclusion on a rising motif.  The fast and furious No. 3. Danza del gaucho matrero finds Shaham providing a real rhythmic panache, through some rollicking jazz like passages mixed with an Argentinian flavour in a terrific swirl of textures.

This is a terrific performance from this soloist. 

This new recording is a fine tribute to Ginastera. The recordings in the solo and chamber works are particularly fine and there is an interesting essay on Ginastera and his music from James O’Leary, Frederick R. Selch Assistant Professor of Music at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Ohio, USA

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