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The Piano Music of Alberto Ginastera

Release Date 1994

Catalogue No. LNT106

Music by:

Alberto Ginastera

Performed by:

Alma Petchersky (piano)

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The Argentinian composer Ginastera is currently enjoying a terrific revival of interest. In case you're not familiar with him, imagine combining Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, Bartók, Manuel de Falla, Latin American folk music and Aaron Copland - nevertheless, it is a personal and distinctive compositional voice. The piano music is at once percussive, virtuosic and lyrical, using musical forms ranging from full-scale sonatas to exquisite miniatures - preludes, dances and the work with which Petchersky's disc begins, the beautiful, songful Milonga Op. 3.

Alma Petchersky, herself Argentinian, performs these works with great feeling and a beautiful, light touch, especially valuable in Ginastera's harsher moments of bitonal harmonies and obsessive rhythmic drive, which could otherwise get a little wearing on the ears. Her sense of rhythm is unfailingly precise, and her shaping of long, legato phrases is particularly lovely in the slower movements, both of sonatas and miniatures. There is also a sensuality about her sound which is very rewarding in, for instance, the first movement of the Sonata No. 1, in which the second subject's glissando-like grace notes truly glow. The pianissimo prestissimo legato of the second movement - really difficult! - shows she has great sensitivity and imagination.

She's not the only pianist who has recently recorded Ginastera: Alberto Portugheis has brought out a series on ASV of the piano and chamber music. His performances are very different - at times more dramatic and, in the American Preludes, for example, he can offer wonderfully sharp characterisation; however, I personally enjoyed Petchersky's precision, magical sound and long lines rather more. But both provide a lovely introduction to Ginastera's music. If you are a piano fan only, get Petchersky's single disc; if you want the chamber music as well, then Portugheis's series (three discs) is a good buy.


Among young peacock contest players the piano work of Ginastera, most specifically the Sonata No. 1, has in the past been a target of a good deal of disrespect. This piece was what one played when one would rather be playing a large Prokofieff or the Barber Sonata but was either too young or not at the technical level yet to be able to splash around to the extent required in the deep end of the pool of lyrical piano modernism. Then again, the folk elements and rhythmic sauciness of Ginastera's musical language could make him in a sense a Latin cousin to Aram Khachaturian, with the corresponding nosedive in intellectual respectability.

But for the most part, this is music of immediate communication, and for that attribute alone deserves to be played, heard, and savored. This disc of Ginastera's piano music runs the gamut from miniature to monster, early work to final statement. Alma Petchersky presents these pieces compellingly and straightforwardly, with her rhythmic integrity in the various dance and motor elements allowing this music to really bite, snap, and bounce. She avoids the impulse to squander any gesture on the altar of cheap effect, and her reading of that infamous Sonata No. 1 is rich, sonorous, and satisfying. I don't find the later sonatas as interesting, crippled as they are by severe overtones of Bartok and Stravinsky. But no matter the composer who could write music of the sophisticated simplicity and clarity of the Suite de danzas criollas could be forgiven many things. This is a highly entertaining and beautiful piece, and Petchersky plays it with great poetry and charm. Petchersky's biographical notes mention studies with a variety of master teachers, including Maria Curcio, Bruno Seidlhofer, and that priestess of touch, Magda Tagliaferro. A master's concern for sound and rhythmic sophistication is very much an aspect of Petchersky's playing and is reproduced very well on the recording itself.

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