Variaciones concertantes, Op. 23
b. Buenos Aires, Argentina / April 11, 1916; d. Geneva, Switzerland / June 25, 1983
Ginastera was the finest composer Argentina has produced. His early works show a strong influence of his homeland’s folk music. Later creations display a dynamic cosmopolitan style that won him a strong global reputation. In the late 1940s, a Guggenheim award allowed him to spend time in the United States, where he benefited from the guidance of Aaron Copland and other prominent musicians. Returning to South America, he assumed several prominent educational and cultural positions and continued to compose prolifically. His catalogue of music includes three operas, two ballets, concertos for harp, violin, cello and piano, incidental music for plays and films, chamber works and pieces for piano solo.
He composed Variaciones concertantes (Concertante Variations) in 1953. Commissioned by the Asociación Amigos de la Música, it was premiered in Buenos Aires by that organization’s orchestra on June 2, Igor Markevitch, conducting. This attractive and expertly crafted score marked the transition between Ginastera’s nationalist and more outward-looking periods. “The work has a subjective Argentinean character,” he wrote. “Instead of employing folklore material, an Argentinean atmosphere is obtained by the use of original melodies and rhythms.”
The variations range in length from mere seconds to several minutes. Each one spotlights one or more solo instruments, displaying in insightful, often virtuoso style their personalities and capabilities. The result is an appealing, witty “concerto for orchestra.” Cello and harp present the slow, expressive Theme. A sombre Interlude for strings follows, then the formal variations unfold as follows: Humorous Variation, for flute; Variation in the Style of a Scherzo, for clarinet; Dramatic Variation, for viola; Canonic Variation, for oboe and bassoon; Rhythmic Variation, for trumpet and trombone; Variation in the Style of a Moto perpetuo, for violin; Pastoral Variation, for horn; Interlude for winds; Reprise of the Theme, this time with double bass partnering the harp. The Final Variation is an exuberant rondo for full orchestra with a distinctly Latin-American flavor.
Program Notes by Don Anderson © 2019