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Alberto Ginastera and “Estancia” Ballet

Alberto Evaristo Ginastera (April 11, 1916 – June 25, 1983) was an Argentine composer who is considered one of the most important Latin American composers. Ginastera was born in Buenos Aires on April 11, 1916, to a Catalan father and an Italian mother, immigrants devoted to agriculture, trade, and crafts. He began his music studies at a very early age. When he was 12 he entered the Williams Conservatory. In 1934 he got his first award from “El Unisono” Association. Many important awards followed throughout his life, such as “Argentine School Song” Award, four national prizes, three municipal prizes , Bicentennial Cinzano Award, National Fund for the Arts Annual Award, etc. He studied at the conservatory in Buenos Aires, graduating in 1938. As a young professor, he taught at the Liceo Militar General San Martín. Among his notable students were Ástor Piazzolla (who studied with him in 1941), Alcides Lanza, Waldo de los Ríos, Jacqueline Nova and Rafael Aponte-Ledée. Much of Ginastera’s works were inspired by the Gauchesco tradition which holds that the Gaucho, or landless native horseman of the plains, is a symbol of Argentina. He was also influenced by Stravinsky and, in a lesser degree, by Bartok and Falla. Ginastera grouped his music into three periods. The first was “Objective Nationalism” (1934–1948), which often integrates Argentine folk themes in a straightforward fashion.

Ginastera first came to international attention in the1940s with two ballet scores, Panambí and Estancia, employing this style. In 1942 Ginastera received a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation to visit the United States. After his visit to the United States in 1945–47, where he studied with Aaron Copland at Tanglewood, he returned to Buenos Aires and co-founded the League of Composers. He also founded the La Plata Music and Performing Arts Conservatory and the Latin American Center for Advanced Music Studies at the Di Tella Institute, in Buenos Aires. He held a number of teaching posts. As to his numerous academic activities, he was a Member of the Conseil Intemational de la Musique (UNESCO), Member of the National Academy of Fine Arts in Argentina, Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Honorary Member of the School of Music Sciences and Arts (Chile National University), Member of the Chilean Composers Association, and Honorary Member of the Brazilian Music Academy.

Ginastera was the Dean and Honorary Professor at the School of Music Sciences and Arts (Argentine Catholic University), and Professor at the La Plata University.His second period was “Subjective Nationalism” (1948–1958). The most important works belonging to this period are Pampeana No. 3 for orchestra and his Piano Sonata No. 1. His Cantata para América Mágica (1960), for dramatic soprano and 53 percussion instruments, was based on ancient pre-Columbian legends. Its West Coast premiere was performed by the Los Angeles Percussion Ensemble under Henri Temianka and William Kraft at UCLA in 1963. Ginastera moved back to the United States in 1968 and then in 1970 to Europe, marrying cellist Aurora Natola in 1971. The third period was “Neo-Expressionism” (1958–1983). Among other distinguishing features, these periods vary in their use of traditional Argentine musical elements. His works in the later periods incorporate traditional elements in increasingly abstracted forms.

The late 1950s and 60s saw series of major US Ginastera premieres, including the Piano Concerto No.1 in Washington, the Violin Concerto with the New York Philharmonic led by Leonard Bernstein, the Harp Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra led by Eugene Ormandy, and Don Rodrigo by the New York City Opera. In 1967 a second opera Bomarzo was premiered in Washington, but the Buenos Aires production was banned for political reasons and not staged until 1972. In 1968 Yale University awarded him an honorary doctorate. The progressive rock group Emerson, Lake & Palmer brought Ginastera attention outside of modern classical music circles when they adapted the fourth movement of his first piano concerto and recorded it on their popular album Brain Salad Surgery under the title “Toccata” in 1973. Late works, in which folk influences are fully subsumed into a rich and multi-coloured modern idiom, include the opera Beatrix Cenci, Glosses for orchestra, the Piano Concerto No.2, Popul Vuh for orchestra, and two cello concertos. Ginastera died in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 25, 1983, at the age of 67. Ginastera’s compositions include three operas, five ballets, several concertos, piano pieces, works for organ, vocal and choral music, chamber music, music for the theater, and film music; a couple of symphonies were withdrawn by the composer. His total repertoire contains fifty five works.

My collection includes the following works by Ginastera:

Estancia Ballet (1941): Dance Suite (1943).
Harp Concerto, op. 25 (1956).
Piano Concerto No. 1, op. 28 (1961).
Variaciones Concertantes (1953).

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