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The remaining work, which the notes describe as 'transitional', is the Concerto for Harp and Orchestra. It is an elusive piece, slipping back and forth from percussive, heavily rhythmic passages, to those of virtual introversion, focusing on the solo instrument. The final of the three movements [listen -- track 7, 0:00-1:37] opens with an impressive, and lengthy harp cadenza. There is nothing florid here, nothing in the tradition of Romantic harp music. It is lean, and spare -- arpeggios at a minimum -- and the playing of Magdalena Barrera is both sinewy and elegant. After several hearings, I still find it hard to summarise this work and that's meant as a compliment. What I have discovered is that the only way to listen to it is at concert hall volume -- (I'll repair relations with my neighbours later). The reason is simply the great dynamic range within the piece: it's vital that the solo harp is not reduced to a whisper.

Magdalena Barrera
Magdalena Barrera

You will hear, readily enough, the musical influences at work on Ginastera, notably Stravinsky and, in the earlier pieces, his mentor and promoter, Copland. I hear other similarities, not influences necessarily, but parallel sound-worlds. But I'd rather let listeners decide for themselves on this score, as also on the question of whether Ginastera is, in the end, an interesting synthesis of other, more original voices, or his own man. For myself, rather in the way that 'it is better to travel than arrive', I am happy to carry on listening, exploring and enjoying, without being overly concerned about reaching clear conclusions.

This is a fascinating programme of Ginastera's music, stunningly played and gloriously recorded. The balance, the clarity, the complex sonorities of the full orchestra are captured magnificently. And, in addition, you get René Buri's evocative black and white aerial photograph, from 1958, on the cover of the booklet. Small packages don't come much more enticing than this.

Copyright © 9 November 2003 Rex Harley, Cardiff UK


Ginastera: Estancia

HMC 901808 DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE 70'06" 2003 harmonia mundi sa

Magdalena Barrera, harp; Orquesta Ciudad de Granada; Josep Pons, conductor

Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983): Estancia (Quatro danzas del ballet) Op 8a; Concierto para arpa y orquesta Op 25; Obertura para el 'Fausto' criollo Op 9; Variaciones concertantes Op 23



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