ALBERTO GINASTERA Glosses sobre temes de Pau Casals – for String Quintet and String Orchestra, Op.46; for Orchestra, Op.48; Variaciones concertantes, Op.23
Naxos have already issued four collections of music by the remarkably original and inventive Argentinean composer, Alberto Ginastera – the complete Ballets, the Piano and Organ music, the complete music for Cello and Piano and the three String Quartets. But if you want to discover the full galaxy of the composer’s melodic invention and instrumental palette you could hardly better this superbly played and recorded coupling of the Glosses sobre temes de Pau Casals in two different versions, played by the London Symphony Orchestra and the vividly colourful Variaciones concertantes courtesy of the Israel Chamber Orchestra.
Glosses on Themes of Pablo Casals (dedicated to the great cellist, a personal friend of the composer) began life in 1976 as a work skilfully written for string quintet and string orchestra to mark a double anniversary: the centenary of Casals’ birth and the bicentennial of American independence. The string quintet is placed separately in the concert hall from the main string group and acts rather like a concertino in a concerto grosso. The work is in five evocatively diverse movements, its ‘Introduction’ drawing on a sad, folk-like theme, making an allusion to a Caribbean legend that alternates with a frenzied buzzing like a multitude of insects.
The following ‘Romance’ is an idyllic evocation recalling Tres Estrofas de amor (‘Three verses of love’) composed by Casals in 1958 for his wife. ‘Sardanes’ is a distanced, hectic suggestion of the vibrant national dance of Catalonia, normally executed in a circle. The magical fourth movement. ‘Cant’, is nocturnal, with Casals’ familiar folk-song setting Cant dell Ocells (‘Song of the Birds’) heard as a gentle cello solo against a background of simulated bird-song. The aptly named finale, ‘Conclusió delirant’, is appropriately wild and frenzied.
Ginastera tells us that while composing Glosses for strings, he felt the need to expand the scoring for full orchestra (which he did in 1978) and, as its very opening (on woodwind) shows, he was right. Although the string version is by no means eclipsed, the myriad of additional colours adds much to the music, for the instrumental expansion was significant, including two flutes, piccolo, three each of oboes, clarinets, bassoons, trumpets and trombones, four horns (the brass sonorities particularly telling), tuba, harp, piano, celesta and a full range of percussion.
The Variaciones concertantes for chamber orchestra includes double woodwind and horns, trumpet, trombone, timpani, harp and strings. The work is in 12 sections with the theme introduced beguilingly on cello and harp. A string interlude acts as a bridge to the variations which follow, each variation dominated by a solo instrument, in turn flute, clarinet, viola, oboe and bassoon in canon, a rhythmic variation for trumpet and trombone, a moto perpetuo for violin, a lovely pastoral variation for horn. A further interlude for wind leads to a reprise of the main theme on a solo double bass and the spectacular finale, based on a virtuosic jousting dance, the Malambo, closes the work on full orchestra. The work is as colourful, and diverting as one could wish and the solo playing from members of the Israel Philharmonic is very winning indeed. First rate recording, too.