Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

For the past five years or so I've posted reviews of classical music CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, in various places on the web: Amazon.com, iTunes and other sites. I'll collect those earlier reviews, and add four or five new ones every month.

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A tale of two composers



It's great to see the second volume in Chandos' Ginastera Orchestral Works series so soon after the first (which came out early in 2016), in celebration of the Centennial Year, which continues in fine form on record. This disc, again featuring Juanjo Mena and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, will be released November 18, 2016.

The disc includes two works in such completely different styles it's hard to believe they're by the same composer. The suite from Panambi, Ginastera's opus 1, is one of the most accomplished first publications by any composer, partly because Ginastera destroyed or declined to publish pretty much all of his early music. Written in the mid-1930s, it has the same combination of New World folklore, sounds and rhythms, and European modernist music (especially Stravinsky, Ravel and Debussy), that is so familiar with Villa-Lobos's music from the 1920s and 30s. It's an orchestral showpiece with a small but significant contribution from the choir, and this completely plays into the strengths of the musicians of the BBC Philharmonic and the Manchester Chamber Choir.

The second work could hardly be more different. The Second Piano Concerto was written in 1972, during Ginastera's "neo-expressionist" phase, the last 12 years of his life after he moved from Argentina to Geneva. Based on a 12-tone row that emerges from the seven notes of the bass solo ‘O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!’ (Oh friends, not those sounds!) in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, this music is every bit as expressive as Panambi, though with different textures, and evoking different responses from the audience. The Concerto is a virtuoso showpiece for the pianist and, once again, for the orchestra, and pianist Xiayin Wang and the orchestral players come through with flying colours.

2016: let's keep the Ginastera Centennial rolling!

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