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Ginastera: Piano Concerto No. 1; Concierto argentino, etc

Xiayin Wang; BBC Philharmonic/Juanjo Mena (Chandos)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Piano Concerto No. 1; Concierto argentino, Variaciones concertantes
Xiayin Wang (piano); BBC Philharmonic/Juanjo Mena
Chandos CHAN10949 66:08 mins


Here’s a fine addition to a well-recorded series. Like volumes 1 and 2, this latest volume mixes and matches pieces from different times in Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera’s life, highlighting the contrasts between them. The one big problem in this disc is that the chronological order is reversed, with the latest (and best) work first: the Piano Concerto No. 1 (1961). This big, four-movement piece, including a virtuoso scherzo and impassioned Adagissimo, is from his late period of modernist dodecaphony, in which, rather remarkably, he managed to preserve his own distinctive musical voice and its earthy, energetic flavour. Beside it, the early Concierto argentine (1935) – from his period of ‘objective nationalism’, drawing on Argentine folk music – risks sounding just a little bit kitschy. We can almost see the galloping horses, sunshine and big hats.

To be fair, it was written when he was only 19 and he refrained from publishing it; he never fulfilled his intention to revise it later in his life. Both concertos enjoy bright, barnstorming performances from pianist Xiayin Wang accompanied with matching flair by the BBC Philharmonic under Juanjo Mena.

In between comes the Variaciones concertantes (1953), of his ‘subjective nationalism’ phase. This work pulls its weight as a brilliant display piece for chamber orchestra, its splendidly imagined textures featuring numerous prominent solos for various members of the ensemble. Big plaudits to the BBC Philharmonic, whose section leaders offer some really heartfelt and magnificently projected performances. What a pity that the booklet does not list credits to them all.


Jessica Duchen