Ginastera: Music for piano and piano chamber ensemble (complete)

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COMPOSERS: Ginastera
LABELS: Pierian Recording Society
WORKS: Music for piano and piano chamber ensemble (complete)
PERFORMER: Barbara Nissman (piano), Ruben Gonzalez (violin), Aurora Natola-Ginastera (cello); Laurentian String Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 0005-06 (distr. PO Box 90476, Austin, TX 78709, USA) Reissue (1991, 1992)
Barbara Nissman has made Ginastera’s powerful, drivingly rhythmic and often very personal style her own – something the composer must have noted when he dedicated his Third Piano Sonata to her in 1982. This two-disc set is a valuable document, drawing together Ginastera’s entire output for piano solo and chamber ensemble with piano; Nissman bounds her way through the lot with tremendous assurance, from the dancing dissonances of the First Sonata (1952) to the increasing modernism of the chamber music from the Sixties and Seventies. The set is perhaps best sampled in small doses, however. It’s hard not to feel that the earlier, evocatively South American pieces are more satisfying than the relatively anonymous, if inventive, instrumental effects of the more atonal later works – moving with the times doesn’t always enhance a composer’s individual voice. And there are some moments when Ginastera’s persistent cross-rhythms and bashed-out bitonality can seem over-repetitive. It always remains interesting, however, and performances of great conviction make this set excellent library material. Highlights definitely include the darkly soulful cello playing of Aurora Natola-Ginastera, making the most of the sensuous colours in Pampeana No. 2 (1950), and Nissman drawing out the ghostly, spine-tingling ‘presto misterioso’ quality of the First Sonata’s scherzo. Jessica Duchen