The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

June 25, 2016

June 25, 1983

Alberto Ginastera (April 11, 1916 to June 25, 1983) was a composer of classical music.  His father was Catalan, his mother Italian and he was born in Buenos Aires.

....As a young professor, Alberto Ginastera taught at the Liceo Militar General San Martín. In 1946-1947 he travelled to the USA on a Guggenheim fellowship, and studied with Aaron Copland at Tanglewood. Returning to Argentina, he co-founded the League of Composers and served as director of the Conservatory of the province of Buenos Aires in La Plata (1948-1952; 1956-1958). He then taught at the Argentine Catholic University and also was a professor at the University of La Plata.

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

Alberto Ginastera is considered one of the most important Latin American classical composers. He 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 his 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.

[He merged his love of Argentine music with] methods of musical expression, marked by modern and sometimes strikingly dissonant combinations of sound, fermented by asymmetrical rhythms. Of these works, one of the most remarkable is Cantata para América mágica, for dramatic soprano and 53 percussion instruments, Op. 27 (1960), ...[referring to] apocryphal pre-Colombian texts, freely arranged by Ginastera it was first performed in Washington, D.C., on April 30, 1961, with excellent success...

An entirely new development in Alberto Ginastera’s evolution came with his first opera Don Rodrigo, Op. 31 (1963-1964), produced on July 24, 1964, at the Teatro Colón. In it he followed the general formula of Alban Berg‘s Wozzeck in its use of classical instrumental forms.... In 1964 he wrote the Cantata Bomarzo, for soloists, narrator, & chamber orchestra, Op. 32 (1964), on a commission from the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation in Washington, D.C. He used the same libretto by Manuel Mujica Láinez in his opera Bomarzo, Op. 34 (1966-1967), which created a sensation in its production in Washington, D.C., on May 19, 1967, by its unrestrained spectacle of sexual violence. It was announced for performance at the Teatro Colón on August 9, 1967, but it was cancelled at the order of the Argentine government because of its alleged immoral nature. This opera was banned in Argentina until 1972. ....His last opera Beatrix Cenci, Op. 38 (1971), based on the play The Cenci (1819) by Percy Bysshe Shelley, commissioned by the Opera Society of Washington, D.C., and produced there on September 17, 1971, concluded his operatic trilogy.

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”. ....

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. 

....Alberto Ginastera was married to the pianist Mercedes de Toro in 1941. After their divorce in 1965, he married the Argentine cellist Aurora Natola, for whom he wrote the Sonata for violoncello & piano, Op. 49 (1979), which she played in New York on December 13, 1979 ...

Our quotations are from this Bach  website, where we also found the picture below; the site and the picture are both great sources of information on Ginastera.

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