Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983)

Alberto Ginastera was one of the foremost Latin American composers of the 20th Century. He was born in Argentina and studied at the Conservatory in Buenos Aires. His music was highly nationalistic, but was also influenced by Stravinsky and Bartók. Ginastera himself divided his music into 3 different stylistic periods. The first he termed “Objective Nationalism,” where he often used Argentine folk tunes. Important works from this period are his two ballets: Panambi and Estancia, as well as the 12 American Preludes for piano. One of his students from this time was the great tango composer Ástor Piazzolla. Following a period of study with Aaron Copland at the Tanglewood Institute, Ginastera’s music shifted into his second style period, “Subjective Nationalism.” While he no longer quoted folk songs, his music still retained a distinctive national flavor through his use of rhythm. Examples of this style include his first two string quartets, a harp concerto, and his most popular piece, the Piano Sonata No. 1.

After 1958, Ginastera started composing in his final style, “Neo-expressionism”. During his later years he moved to the United States, and finally to Europe. The last movement of his Piano Concerto No. 1 from this period was adapted by the progressive rock group Emerson, Lake & Palmer for their album “Brain Salad Surgery” and was enthusiastically endorsed by Ginastera. He also became interested in Pre-Columbian Latin American folklore, as evidenced by the Cantata Para América Mágica for soprano and percussion instruments and the unfinished orchestral work Popol Vuh, based on Mayan creation myths.

Suggested Listening:

Suggested Reading:

Gerard Behague. Music In Latin America: An Introduction.