Juanjo Mena conducts the BBC Philharmonic in a performance of Ginastera’s Panambí and Piano Concerto No. 2

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COMPOSERS: Ginastera
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Ginastera
WORKS: Panambí; Piano Concerto No. 2
PERFORMER: Xiayin Wang (piano); Manchester Chamber Choir; BBC Philharmonic/Juanjo Mena


Volume 2 of this landmark Chandos series, released at the end of Ginastera’s centenary year in 2016, unites his first published work, the ‘choreographic legend’ Panambí, with the much later Piano Concerto No. 2. Panambí dates from the mid-1930s when Ginastera was still a student, and for an Op. 1 it’s fairly astonishing, especially in this never-before-recorded version with choral conclusion (he was nothing if not ambitious). A supernatural love story, it sounds a little like an Argentinian Rite of Spring with bits of Daphnis et Chloé thrown in. The Piano Concerto No. 2 (1972) is equally ambitious, but serialist while also referencing Beethoven: it opens with a huge set of variations on a tone-row derived from a chord in the Symphony No. 9 and features a slow movement marked ‘Quasi una fantasia’.

The juxtaposition highlights the transformation of Ginastera’s style across the decades. Most fascinating, though, is that despite the language being different, the voice is the same: driving, often volcanic energy, continual exploration and adventure, rapt moments of mystery and ingenious orchestration bristling with percussion.

The BBC Philharmonic and Juanjo Mena heroically navigate the complex textures and intense atmospheres with both finesse and aplomb. Xiayin Wang rises to the Piano Concerto’s challenges, bringing to it a fulsome tone plus meticulous detail. She has apparently disobeyed the instruction to play the scherzo with left hand alone (though I don’t blame her).


Jessica Duchen