WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 1; Piano Sonata No. 2; Piano Sonata No. 3; Milonga; Danzas Argentinas; Doce Preludios Americanos; Suite de Danzas Criollas
PERFORMER: Alma Petchersky (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: LNT 106 DDD
The Argentinian composer Ginastera is currently enjoying a terrific revival of interest. In case you’re not familiar with him, imagine combining Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Bartók, Manuel de Falla, Latin American folk music and Aaron Copland – nevertheless, it is a personal and distinctive compositional voice. The piano music is at once percussive, virtuosic and lyrical, using musical forms ranging from full-scale sonatas to exquisite miniatures – preludes, dances and the work with which Petchersky’s disc begins, the beautiful, songful Milonga, Op. 3.
Alma Petchersky, herself Argentinian, performs these works with great feeling and a beautiful, light touch, especially valuable in Ginastera’s harsher moments of bitonal harmonies and obsessive rhythmic drive, which could otherwise get a little wearing on the ears. Her sense of rhythm is unfailingly precise, and her shaping of long, legato phrases is particularly lovely in the slower movements, both of sonatas and miniatures. There is also a sensuality about her sound which is very rewarding in, for instance, the first movement of the Sonata No. 1, in which the second subject’s glissando-like grace notes truly glow. The pianissimo prestissimo legato of the second movement – really difficult! – shows she has great sensitivity and imagination.
She’s not the only pianist who has recently recorded Ginastera: Alberto Portugheis has brought out a series on ASV of the piano and chamber music. His performances are very different – at times more dramatic and, in the American Preludes, for example, he can offer wonderfully sharp characterisation; however, I personally enjoyed Petchersky’s precision, magical sound and long lines rather more. But both provide a lovely introduction to Ginastera’s music. If you are a piano fan only, get Petchersky’s single disc; if you want the chamber music as well, then Portugheis’s series (three discs) is a good buy. Jessica Duchen