ALBERTO GINASTERA (1916-1983)
Variaciones Concertantes Op. 23 (1953)
Notes by Michael-Thomas Foumai
1. Theme for Cello and Harp
2. Interlude for Strings
3. Playful Variations for Flute
4. Scherzo for Clarinet
5. Dramatic Variation for Viola
6. Variation for Oboe and Bassoon
7. Rhythmic Variation for Trumpet and Trombone
8. Perpetual Motion Variation for Violin
9. Pastoral Variation for Horn
10. Interlude for Winds
11. Theme for Double Bass
12. Finale Variation in the Form of a Rondo for Orchestra
1950s: FRAMING POLITICS
On the evening of Saturday, July 26, 1952, an emergency radio broadcast across Argentina pronounced, "the Press Secretary's Office of the Presidency of the Nation fulfills its sorrowful duty to inform the people of the Republic that at 20:25 hours, Mrs. Eva Perón, Spiritual Leader of the Nation, died." The death of María Eva Duarte de Perón (Evita) marked the beginning of the end for Juan Domingo Perón's second term as President of Argentina. Widely praised by the working class, Perón's first term saw the growth of trade unions, women's rights, and social welfare reform. Yet, the handling of political opposition drew criticism, foreshadowing the leader's reliance on violence and dictatorial governance.
The middle class, comprised mostly of academics, opposed Perón's populist ideology of nationalism through the working class, "Peronism." Thousands from all public education institutions were terminated from their positions under Perón's administration, instituting a mass exodus of the Argentine intelligencia to Europe, Mexico, and the United States, including Alberto Ginastera. Refusing to re-name the Conservatorio de Música y Arte Escénico in La Plata after Eva Perón, Ginastera was forced to resign as director in 1952, and turned to film scoring and commissions to support himself. One such commission was the Variaciones concertantes, premiered in 1953 by Igor Markevitch for the Asociación Amigos de la Música in Buenos Aires.
Stateside, a Republican trifecta, reigned supreme after the 1953 elections, controlling the House, Senate, and executive branch. In his first State of the Union Address to the 83rd United States Congress on February 2, 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower affirmed a bi-partisan call for Hawaiʻi's statehood, "The platforms of both political parties promised immediate statehood to Hawaii. The people of that Territory have earned that status. Statehood should be granted promptly with the first election scheduled for 1954."
ARGENTINA’S GREAT MUSICAL HOPE
Born in Buenos Aires, Alberto Ginastera was the leading Argentinian composer of the twentieth century, as important in giving the Argentinian folk heritage a voice in art music as Bartók was in Hungary. He studied music privately as a child, later enrolling at the National Conservatoire of Music in his home city. His first compositions date from his early youth; he was 22 when his Piezas infantiles for piano won first prize in a competition. The works which followed (e.g., the ballet Estancia) initially developed the nationalist tendencies announced in the Piezas infantiles.
In 1946–47, Ginastera spent a year in the United States on a Guggenheim fellowship, studying with Aaron Copland at Tanglewood. Returning home, he joined the teaching staff of the National Conservatory. He was later the Dean of the Faculty of Musical Arts and Sciences at the Catholic University. His first opera, Don Rodrigo, premiered to immediate acclaim in 1966 and was soon followed by two others, Bomarzo (1967) and Beatrix Cenci (1971). In 1969, finding himself out of sympathy with the prevailing political climate in Argentina (he was twice ejected from his academic posts because of his protests against the repressive regime), Ginastera left the country, settling in Geneva with his second wife, the cellist Aurora Natola.
In the early 1950s, the nationalist element in his music gradually lost its dominance, and explicit modernist characteristics began to make their presence felt in what Ginastera called his 'neo-expressionistic period.' He actively adopted the twelve-tone technique, and his works also incorporated microtones and polytonality. In his final years, his modernism had softened, returning to his early output's tonality and folk-music inflections. (Reprinted by kind permission of Boosey & Hawkes)
THE COMPOSER SPEAKS
“These variations have a subjective Argentine character. Instead of using folkloristic material, I try to achieve an Argentine atmosphere through the employment of my own thematic and rhythmic elements. The work begins with an original theme followed by eleven variations, each one reflecting the distinctive character of the instrument featured. All the instruments of the orchestra are treated soloistically. Some variations belong to the decorative, ornamental or elaborative type, others are written in the contemporary manner of metamorphosis, which consists of taking elements of the main theme and evolving from it new material.” –Alberto Ginastera
The 25-minute score calls for two flutes, piccolo, oboe, two clarinets, bassoon, two horns, trumpet, trombone, timpani, harp, and strings.
Alberto Ginastera was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on April 11, 1916, and died in Geneva, Switzerland on June 25, 1983.