<dir=ltr align=left>In 1935 at the age of nineteen and while still a student at Conservatory, Alberto Ginastera composed the Concierto Argentino and dedicated it to his good friend, the pianist Hugh Balzo. Balzo premiered the concerto, and then the composer withdrew the work from publication. Barbara Nissman located the manuscript at the Fleisher Collection in Philadelphia, where it had been deposited by Nicolas Slonimsky. In the 1940s, Slonimsky had traveled to South America under the sponsorship of the WPA in search of Latin American music. Many of his discoveries eventually became part of the Fleisher Manuscript Collection of the Free Library of Philadelphia. Later in his life, Ginastera reviewed the manuscript and told his wife that he planned to revise the work. Unfortunately, the composer died before his intentions were realized.
Written six years before his popular ballet Estancia (1941), Ginastera’s Concierto Argentino introduces two of Estancia’s popular themes, both played by the orchestra in the middle movement and also in the finale of this three-movement work. Always a recycler, the composer gives the listener a taste of what lies ahead. Elements of Ginastera’s early style—as heard in Panambí, Op. 1, Three Argentine Dances, Op. 2, Suite des Danzas Criollas, Op. 15 and other works—are already hinted at in the Concierto: the rhythmic and driving energy, the Latin dance tunes, the sentimental romantic melodies, and the celebration of sheer pianistic bravura for its own sake. The first movement includes a cadenza whose piano writing could have been inspired by some of the right-hand passagework in the cadenza of Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto. The second movement is a beautiful and languid dance, including a piano introduction reminiscent of Gershwin’s opening to Rhapsody in Blue (1924). The third movement Allegro rústico is signature Ginastera. This is music of the Argentine countryside—The Pampas—and Ginastera conveys the passion of the people who sing the folk tunes and who dance the virile, extroverted malambo. Sounds of carefree street musicians are also heard and with constant use of dissonant seconds, Ginastera depicts their "out of tune" playing. There is an energy and force within the music, driving it right towards the final note of this youthful, joyful, and exciting composition.
Even though this is a somewhat naïve work of Ginastera’s youth, the Concierto Argentino has a definite appeal and foretells what will follow. Seen in the context of Ginastera’s music, his early style planted the necessary seeds that would be developed later into a richer, more sophisticated language. Ginastera always possessed the natural gift of creating magic within his sound canvases, and even in this young student composition, Ginastera transports the listener to a magical world.
Program note reproduced from CD liner notes with the permission of the author.