Composer portrait: Alberto Ginastera
Alberto Ginastera: it’s almost like Argentina did not exist before him, at least music-wise, and that after him only Astor Piazzolla (who by the way studied with Ginastera for a period of time) incarnates the music of his country, otherwise reduced to bare tango. However, Ginastera is the greatest Argentinian composer and the musical shape of Argentina would be utterly different without his presence.
Born in Buenos Aires in 1916, to a Catalan father and an Italian mother, Ginastera completed all his studies in his home country and in 1941 became a composition teacher at the conservatory. His first works as a composer date back to the early 30s, but most of them were destroyed by Ginastera himself, almost obsessed in making sure only his best works would survive.
Ginastera himself did most of the work in cataloging his own music, dividing it in three main periods:
This first period of his composing life is characterized by the folk music of his home country: the key elements of the pre-Colombian culture, the dance rhythms, the traditional folk themes are reworked by Ginastera with the same mindset used by Stravinsky, Bartok and De Falla.
The “Subjective Nationalism” period will last until 1958: the American influence and the Copland school definitely left a mark on the composer, who reworked the tradition in a more personal and innovative way. An example of his music from this period is the Concerto for Harp (1956).
“Neo-expressionism” is the term used by Ginastera to define his last period as a composer, eclectically open to different influences, up to the micro-tonal school. The rhythms and key elements of Argentinian folk music are still there, but they become symbols and fade away in the more abstract concept of his compositions. An example of this is the guitar sonata (1976), famous for the use of the “natural chord” (obtained by playing at the same time all open strings). Another example can be found in the Orchestral Suite “Popol Vuh” (1975).
Ginastera’s music has never ceased to be appealing, both to musicians and to audiences. Albert Hoffammann was stating this already in 1984 in the Sunday Chronicle and, since then, the only thing that has changed has been the growing fame of this wonderful composer.