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Alberto Ginastera

Alberto Ginastera

Alberto Evaristo Ginastera (Spanish pronunciation: [alˈβerto eβaˈɾisto xinasˈteɾa]; April 11, 1916Template:Spaced ndashJune 25, 1983) was an Argentine composer of classical music. He is considered one of the most important 20th-century classical composers of the Americas.[1]


Ginastera was born in Buenos Aires to a Catalan father and an Italian mother. During the last few years of his life, he preferred to pronounce his surname in its Catalan pronunciation, with a soft 'G' as in 'George' (IPA: [(d)ʒinasˈteɾa]) rather than a Spanish 'J' sound (IPA: [xinasˈteɾa]).[2] In fact this would be the local Argentine pronunciation of his name if it were spelled Yinastera or Llinastera.[3]

Ginastera studied at the conservatory in Buenos Aires, graduating in 1938. As a young professor, he taught at the Liceo Militar General San Martín. After a visit to the United States in 1945–47, where he studied with Aaron Copland at Tanglewood, he returned to Buenos Aires and co-founded the League of Composers. He held a number of teaching posts.

Ginastera moved back to the United States in 1968 and then in 1970 to Europe. He died in Geneva, Switzerland, at the age of 67 and was buried in the Cimetière des Rois there.

Among his notable students were Ástor Piazzolla (who studied with him in 1941), Alcides Lanza, Waldo de los Ríos, Jacqueline Nova and Rafael Aponte-Ledée.


Ginastera grouped his music into three periods: "Objective Nationalism" (1934–1948), "Subjective Nationalism" (1948–1958), and "Neo-Expressionism" (1958–1983). Among other distinguishing features, these periods vary in their use of traditional Argentine musical elements. His Objective Nationalistic works often integrate Argentine folk themes in a straightforward fashion, while works in the later periods incorporate traditional elements in increasingly abstracted forms.

Much of Ginastera's works were inspired by the Gauchesco tradition. This tradition holds that the Gaucho, or landless native horseman of the plains, is a symbol of Argentina.[4]

The progressive rock group Emerson, Lake & Palmer brought Ginastera attention outside of modern classical music circles when they adapted the fourth movement of his first piano concerto and recorded it on their popular album Brain Salad Surgery under the title "Toccata". They recorded the piece not only with Ginastera's permission, but with his endorsement. In 1973, when they were recording the album, Keith Emerson met with Ginastera at his home in Switzerland and played a recording of his arrangement for him. Ginastera is reported to have said, "Diabolico!". Emerson misunderstood Ginastera's meaning: Ginastera spoke almost no English and meant that their interpretation was frightening, which had been his intent when he wrote it; Emerson, being British, took it to mean "awful". Emerson was so upset that he was prepared to scrap the piece until Ginastera's wife intervened saying that he approved. Ginastera later said, "You have captured the essence of my music, and no one's ever done that before." This experience is detailed in the liner notes to Brain Salad Surgery. Emerson would later go on to release an adaptation of one of the pieces from Ginastera's Suite de Danzas Criollas entitled "Creole Dance". "Toccata" also gained fame as the theme to the New England cult TV show Creature Double Feature. Italian neo-classical electric guitarist Alex Masi has also recorded an adaptation of "Toccata," one strongly based on the aforementioned ELP version, rather than the original orchestral piece. It can be found on 1989's "Attack of the Neon Shark".

His Cantata para América Mágica (1960), for dramatic soprano and 53 percussion instruments, was based on ancient pre-Columbian legends. Its West Coast premiere was performed by the Los Angeles Percussion Ensemble under Henri Temianka and William Kraft at UCLA in 1963.

A portion of Ginastera's Piano Sonata No. 1 is performed in the movie The Competition, and the piece is included in the movie soundtrack.


File:Conservatorio Julián Aguirre.jpg
Julián Aguirre Conservatory of Music, founded by Ginastera in 1951


  • Don Rodrigo, Op. 31 (1963–64)
  • Bomarzo, Op. 34 (1966–67), banned in Argentina until 1972
  • Beatrix Cenci, Op. 38 (1971), based on the play The Cenci (1819) by Percy Bysshe Shelley


  • Panambí, Op. 1 (1934–37)
  • Estancia, Op. 8 (1941)


  • Obertura para el "Fausto" criollo, Op. 9 (1943)
  • Ollantay: 3 Symphonic Movements, Op. 17 (1947)
  • Variaciones concertantes, Op. 23 (1953)
  • Pampeana No. 3, Op. 24 (1954)
  • Concerto per corde, Op. 33 (1965)
  • Estudios Sinfonicos, Op. 35 (1967)
  • Popol Vuh, Op. 44 (1975–1983, left incomplete at the composer's death)
  • Glosses sobre temes de Pau Casals for string orchestra, Op. 46 (1976)
  • Glosses sobre temes de Pau Casals for full orchestra, Op. 48 (1976–77)
  • Iubilum, Op. 51 (1979–80)


  • Harp
  • Piano
    • Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 28 (1961)
    • Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 39 (1972)
  • Violin
    • Violin Concerto, Op. 30 (1963)
  • Cello
    • Cello Concerto No. 1, Op. 36 (1968)
    • Cello Concerto No. 2, Op. 50 (1980–81)


  • Danzas argentinas, Op. 2 (1937)
  • Tres piezas, Op. 6 (1940)
  • Malambo, Op. 7 ( 1940)
  • Pequena Danza (from the ballet Estancia, Op. 8) (1941)
  • 12 Preludios americanos, Op. 12 (1944)
  • Suite de danzas criollas, Op. 15 (1946, rev. 1956)
  • Rondó sobre temas infantiles argentinos, Op. 19 (1947)
  • Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 22 (1952)
  • Arrangement of an Organ Toccata by Domenico Zipoli (1970)
  • Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 53 (1981)
  • Piano Sonata No. 3, Op. 54 (1982)
  • Danzas argentinas Para los ninos (Unfinished)
    1. Moderato: para Alex
    2. Paisaje: para Georgina


  • Toccata, Villancico y Fuga, Op. 18 (1947)
  • Variazioni e Toccata sopra Aurora lucis rutilat, Op. 52 (1980)
    Variación 1: Maestoso
    Variación 2: Tempo giusto
    Variación 3: Impetuoso, l'istesso tempo
    Variación 4: Vivacissimo
    Variación 5: L'istesso tempo
    Variación 6: L'istesso tempo
    Variación 7: Sereno
    Variación 8: Estatico
    Variación 9: Quasi allegretto
    Variación 10: Pastorale
    Variación 11: Andantino poetico
    Variación 12: Lento
    Toccata – Finale: Tema


  • 2 canciones, for voice and piano, Op. 3 (1938)
  • Cantos del Tucumán, for voice, flute, harp, percussion, and violin, Op. 4 (1938)
  • Psalm 150, for chorus, Op. 5 (1938)
  • 5 canciones populares argentinas, for voice and piano, Op. 10 (1943)
  • Las horas de una estancia, for voice and piano, Op. 11 (1943)
  • Hieremiae prophetae lamentationes, for chorus, Op. 14 (1946)
  • Cantata para América mágica, for dramatic soprano and percussion orchestra, Op. 27 (1960)
  • Cantata Bomarzo, for soloists, narrator, and chamber orchestra, Op. 32 (1964)
  • Milena, for soprano and orchestra, Op. 37 (1971)
  • Serenata, for baritone, violoncello, wind quintet, percussion, harp, and double bass, Op. 42 (1973)
  • Turbae ad passionem gregorianam, for soloists, chorus, boy's chorus and orchestra, Op. 43 (1975)
  • Canción del beso robado, for voice and piano (19??)

Chamber/solo instrumental

  • Duo, for flute and oboe, Op. 13 (1945)
  • Pampeana No. 1, for violin and piano, Op. 16 (1947)
  • String Quartet No. 1, Op. 20 (1948)
  • Pampeana No. 2, for violoncello and piano, Op. 21 (1950)
  • String Quartet No. 2, Op. 26 (1958, Rev. 1968)
  • Piano Quintet, Op. 29 (1963)
  • String Quartet No. 3, for soprano and string quartet, Op. 40 (1973)
  • Puneña no.1, for flute, Op. 41 (1973, left incomplete at the time of the composer's death)
  • Puneña no.2 ("Hommage à Paul Sacher"), for violoncello, Op. 45 (1976)
  • Sonata for guitar, Op. 47 (1976, Rev. 1981)
  • Sonata, for violoncello and piano, Op. 49 (1979)

Works withdrawn by the composer (without opus number)

  • Piezas Infantiles, for piano (1934)
  • Impresiones de la Puna, for flute and string quartet (1934)
  • Concierto argentino, for piano and orchestra (1936)
  • El arriero canta, for chorus (1937)
  • Sonatina, for harp (1938)
  • Symphony No. 1 ("Porteña") (1942)
  • Symphony No. 2 ("Elegíaca") (1944)

Incidental/film music

  • Don Basilio malcasado (1940)
  • Doña Clorinda la descontenta (1941)
  • Malambo (1942)
  • Rosa de América (1945)
  • Las antiguas semillas (1947)
  • Nace la libertad (1949)
  • El puente (1950)
  • Facundo, el tigre de los llanos (1952)
  • Caballito criollo (1953)
  • Su seguro servidor (1954)
  • Los maridos de mamá (1956)
  • Enigma de mujer (1956)
  • Primavera de la vida (1958)
  • Hay que bañar al nene (1958)
  • El límite (1958)
  • A María del corazón (1960)
  • La doncella prodigiosa (1961)



  1. ^ Deborah Schwartz-Kates, "Ginastera, Alberto (Evaristo)", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001); Evett, Robert. 1966. "The South American Way", New Republic 154, no. 12 (19 March): 35; Anon. "Obituary: Alberto Ginastera". The Musical Times 124, no. 1687, Music of the French Baroque (September 1983): 568; Aurelio de la Vega, "Trends of Present-Day Latin-American Music", Journal of Inter-American Studies 1, no. 1 (January 1959): 97–102, citation on p. 10; Norman Lebrecht, Companion to Twentieth-century Music (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992): 134. Reprint New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 9780306807343; Levin Houston, "Kennedy Center Sees Beatrix Cenci", The Free Lance-Star [Fredericksburg, Virginia] 87, no. 215 (13 September 1971); Suzanne Spicer Tiemstra, The Choral Music of Latin America: A Guide to Compositions and Research, Contributions in Afro-American & African Studies 36 (New York: Greenwood Press, 1992): 2. ISBN 9780313282089.
  2. ^ Deborah Schwartz-Kates. Alberto Ginastera. P.20
  3. ^ Learn Latin American Spanish – Pronunciation guide, bottom of the page: "The Argentinian accent is very distinctive, particularly as regards the pronunciation of y and ll, which are pronounced much like the 'j' in 'John' or the 's' in 'pleasure'."
  4. ^ Alberto Ginastera, Argentine Cultural Construction, and the Gauchesco Tradition by Deborah Schwartz-Katz, The Musical Quarterly, Summer 2002
  5. ^

Further reading

  • Calleja, Marianela: Ideas of Time in Music: A Philosophico-logical Investigation Applied to Works of Alberto Ginastera (1916–1983). Studia musicologica Universitatis Helsingiensis, 24. (Ph.D. thesis.) Helsinki University, 2013. ISSN 0787-4294 ISBN 978-952-10-8992-3 (On-line version.)

External links

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