Ginastera fest opens with fire at the Frost
The 25th installment of Festival Miami is closing with neither a bang nor a whimper, but rather with a Latin-flavored blast of bravura and musical ingenuity.
Alberto Ginastera is in the spotlight, as the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music rounds off its month-long festival with a two-night tribute to the Argentinian composer.
On Sunday evening, the composer’s daughter Georgina provided brief but heartfelt opening remarks and the evening’s works were introduced by Deborah Schwartz-Kates, chair of the Frost School’s musicology department, and a Ginastera scholar who has been the driving force behind this event.
While his name is internationally known, Ginastera’s legacy rests on a relatively small number of works, notably the orchestral showpiece Variaciones concertantes, the Piano Sonata and the first two string quartets.
Yet Ginastera wrote with real daring and confidence in all forms. Sunday night’s program, arranged mostly chronologically, gave a worthy conspectus of the composer’s art, showing that there are many riches waiting to be discovered that will provide a more complete picture of Ginastera’s achievements.
The evening led off with two sets of early songs, and one could hardly wish for more idiomatic advocacy than that provided by soloist Virgina Correa Dupuy.
Born in Argentina’s Tucuman region, the soprano seemed to bring a natural affinity to the Cantos del Tucuman. Scored for backing violin, harp, flute and percussion, the Cantos have a simple folk-like style, which Dupuy brought out with such esubtle and easy emotion she didn’t seem to be interpreting the songs at all but simply presenting their essence.
The singer’s dusky timbre and unpretentious style was even more striking in the succeeding Dos canciones with the populist street quality of the music making the line between art music and folksong seem to disappear.
By the time he wrote his String Quartet No. 1 at age 32, Ginastera had clearly imbibed the trends of 20th-century modernism, and in this quartet he gracefully distills Argentinian elements within a thorny angular style.
The Bergonzi String Quartet delivered a superb, impassioned performance, violinist Glenn Basham digging into the emphatic riffs and all the members putting across the eerie harmonics and strident edge, the group’s astringent sonority well suited to this music.
Written in 1961, Ginastera’s Piano Concerto No. 1 has been referred to as “Bartok on the Pampas” and it’s hard to do much better than that. As with the quartet, there’s a stylish melding of spiky virtuosic display with languid Impressionism. Latin percussion is very much to the fore and Ginastera’s beloved Malambo rhythms drive the music in the exhilarating finale.
Soloist Luis Ascot comes with the imprimatur of the Ginastera family, and the veteran Argentinian pianist clearly has an idiomatic feel for the music and the technique for its fistfuls of notes. Even so, one felt there could have been more unbridled excitement in the more bravura sections, which were kept on a firm rein. Still, Ascot made a strong case for this underperformed work, with Sleeper and the Frost Symphony Orchestra lending blazing, energized support.
Sleeper’s student Zoe Zeniodi showed impressive podium authority and control in the last two of Ginastera’s Catalan-inspired Glosses for orchestra. The young conductor drew hushed and refined playing in the impressionistic No. 4 and brilliant vivacity in No. 5.
Ginastera Tribute, Part II
8 p.m. Monday: Pampeana No. 1 for violin; Pampeana No. 2 for cello; Hierimiae Prophetae Lamentationes for chorus; Cantata para America magica. Gusman Concert Hall, 1314 Miller Drive, Coral Gables. $15-$60. 305-284-4940; www.festivalmiami.com.
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Mon Nov 3, 2008
at 6:50 pm