Ginastera, Alberto Evaristo (1916–1983)

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Ginastera, Alberto Evaristo (1916–1983)

Alberto Evaristo Ginastera (b. 11 April 1916; d. 25 June 1983), Argentine musician. Born in Buenos Aires, Ginastera began his studies at age twelve, at the Alberto Williams Conservatory, graduating in 1935 with a gold medal in composition. In 1936 he entered the National Conservatory of Music to study with Athos Palma (harmony), José Gil (counterpoint), and José André (composition). His career as a composer began in the early 1930s, while he was a student at the Conservatory. His first significant work in the Argentine national idiom was the ballet Panambí (1936), which premiered at the Teatro Colón, 12 July 1940; it later won both the Municipal and the National Prize for Music. The turning point of his career came with a commission from the American Ballet Caravan for which he wrote Estancia (1941), which earned him a place of distinction among young Argentine composers. That same year he was named professor of composition at the National Conservatory. In 1942 he received a Guggenheim fellowship, but he did not go to the United States until after World War II. He lived in New York from 1945 to 1947 and attended Aaron Copland's classes at Tanglewood.

In 1948 Ginastera returned to Buenos Aires, where he founded the Argentine chapter of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM). He was appointed director of the Conservatory of the Province of Buenos Aires in La Plata. Over the years he attended concerts of his works in Frankfurt, Oslo, Rome, Stockholm, Paris, and London. He participated in the Latin American Music Festival of Caracas (1957), acting as juror for the composition competition. The following year he went to the United States to attend the premiere of his Segundo Cuarteto by the Juilliard Quartet at the First Inter-American Music Festival in Washington, D.C. During the Second Inter-American Music Festival (1961), Ginastera achieved world recognition with the premiere of the Cantata para América Mágica and the Piano Concerto No. 1, commissioned by the Fromm and Koussevitzky foundations, respectively. His opera Don Rodrigo, based on a libretto by Alejandro Casona, premiered at the Teatro Colón in July 1964. Soon there followed two additional operas, both commissioned by the Opera Society of Washington: Bomarzo (May 1967) and Beatrix Cenci, performed on 10 September 1971 during the inauguration of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Ginastera was one of the most prominent Latin American composers of the twentieth century and much of his music has entered the international repertory. His works have an exuberant, dramatic quality, and they range in style from a subjective nationalism to a more objective, abstract mode, using advanced techniques: polytonality, microtonality, aleatory procedures, and twelve-tone writing. All of his compositions retain a lyrical, expressionistic aspect, involving the use of Sprechstimme (speech song) in the vocal works. He died in Geneva.

See alsoMusic: Art Music .


John Vinton, ed., Dictionary of Contemporary Music (1974); New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1980); New Grove Dictionary of Opera, vol. 7 (1992).

Additional Bibliography

Buch, Esteban. The Bomarzo affair: Ópera, perversión y dictadura. Buenos Aires: A. Hidalgo, 2003.

Scarabino, Guillermo. Alberto Ginastera: Técnicas y estilo (1935–1950). Buenos Aires: Facultad de Artes y Ciencias Musicales, Instituto de Investigación Musicológica "Carlos Vega," 1996.

Tabor, Michelle. "Alberto Ginastera's Late Instrumental Style." Latin American Music Review/Revista de Música Latinoamericana 15 (Spring 1994): 1-31.

                                          Susana Salgado