Though there has been a clutch of anniversary releases, this year’s centenary of Alberto Ginastera’s birth has yet to produce really significant new recordings of his most important works. The Warner Classics disc put together by conductor Gisele Ben-Dor was perhaps the most significant so far, for it included the Argentinian composer’s beautiful Kafka cantata, Milena, and extracts from his first opera, Don Rodrigo, but others have tended to focus on the earlier, better known and more overtly nationalistic pieces.
All four of the works on this Capriccio disc, though, belong to the last phase of Ginastera’s composing life, which began in the late 1950s and continued until his death in 1983. His music became “neo-expressionist” (his own description), and freely incorporated elements from the postwar European avant garde, including serialism and the use of microtones and chance procedures.
The six movements that make up the Estudios Sinfonicos, from 1967, almost seem like a catalogue of these devices – one movement is called Para los Microtonos y las Sonoridades Insólitas (For Microtones and Strange Sonorities); another is Para las Densidades (For the Densities) – but elsewhere the fashionable techniques are often still combined with much more traditionally expressive writing. In the Concerto for Strings of 1965, motoric Bartókian passages and neoclassical rhythmic unisons alternate with florid solo cadenzas and occasional dense clusters, while in the Glosses Sobre Temes de Pau Casals, completed in 1977, melodies composed by or associated with the great cellist are put through the modernist mince. The purest diatonic tunes are juxtaposed with reflections of themselves in tangles of micropolyphony, or threaded through drifting, rootless chords.