Alberto Ginastera

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Alberto Ginastera
Born Alberto Evaristo Ginastera
(1916-04-16)April 16, 1916
Buenos Aires
Died June 25, 1983(1983-06-25) (aged 67)
Era 20th Century

Alberto Evaristo Ginastera (Spanish pronunciation: [alˈβerto eβaˈɾisto xinasˈteɾa]; April 11, 1916 – June 25, 1983) was an Argentine composer of classical music. He is considered one of the most important 20th-century classical composers of the Americas.[1]


Julián Aguirre Conservatory of Music, founded by Ginastera in 1951

Ginastera was born in Buenos Aires to a Spanish father and an Italian mother. During the last few years of his life, he preferred to pronounce his surname in its Catalan pronunciation, with a soft 'G' as in 'George' (IPA: [(d)ʒinasˈteɾa]) rather than a Spanish 'J' sound (IPA: [xinasˈteɾa]).[2]

Ginastera studied at the Williams Conservatory in Buenos Aires, graduating in 1938. As a young professor, he taught at the Liceo Militar General San Martín. After a visit to the United States in 1945–47, where he studied with Aaron Copland at Tanglewood, he returned to Buenos Aires and co-founded the League of Composers. He held a number of teaching posts. Among his notable students were Ástor Piazzolla (who studied with him in 1941), Alcides Lanza, Waldo de los Ríos, Jacqueline Nova and Rafael Aponte-Ledée. See: List of music students by teacher: G to J#Alberto Ginastera.

Ginastera moved back to the United States in 1968 and then in 1970 to Europe. He died in Geneva, Switzerland, at the age of 67 and was buried in the Cimetière des Rois there.


Ginastera grouped his music into three periods: "Objective Nationalism" (1934–1948), "Subjective Nationalism" (1948–1958), and "Neo-Expressionism" (1958–1983). Among other distinguishing features, these periods vary in their use of traditional Argentine musical elements. His Objective Nationalistic works often integrate Argentine folk themes in a straightforward fashion, while works in the later periods incorporate traditional elements in increasingly abstracted forms.

Many of Ginastera's works were inspired by the Gauchesco tradition. This tradition holds that the Gaucho, or landless native horseman of the plains, is a symbol of Argentina.[3]

His Cantata para América Mágica (1960), for dramatic soprano and 53 percussion instruments, was based on ancient pre-Columbian legends. Its West Coast premiere was performed by the Los Angeles Percussion Ensemble under Henri Temianka and William Kraft at UCLA in 1963.

A portion of Ginastera's Piano Sonata No. 1 is performed in the film The Competition, and the piece is included in the movie soundtrack.


Cover of Brain Salad Surgery by Emerson, Lake & Palmer, on which Ginastera's "Toccata" figures prominently

Popularly, Ginsatera is best known for having his "Toccata" (1st piano concerto, 4th movement), arranged by keyboardist Keith Emerson and set to synthesized instruments by the Progressive rock super group Emerson, Lake & Palmer on their album Brain Salad Surgery (1972), with a special percussion movement added by ELP member Carl Palmer.



  • Don Rodrigo, Op. 31 (1963–64)
  • Bomarzo, Op. 34 (1966–67), banned in Argentina until 1972
  • Beatrix Cenci, Op. 38 (1971), based on the play The Cenci (1819) by Percy Bysshe Shelley


  • Panambí, Op. 1 (1934–37)
  • Estancia, Op. 8 (1941)


  • Obertura para el "Fausto" criollo, Op. 9 (1943)
  • Ollantay: 3 Symphonic Movements, Op. 17 (1947)
  • Variaciones concertantes, Op. 23 (1953)
  • Pampeana No. 3, Op. 24 (1954)
  • Concerto per corde, Op. 33 (1965)
  • Estudios Sinfonicos, Op. 35 (1967)
  • Popol Vuh, Op. 44 (1975–1983, left incomplete at the composer's death)
  • Glosses sobre temes de Pau Casals for string orchestra, Op. 46 (1976)
  • Glosses sobre temes de Pau Casals for full orchestra, Op. 48 (1976–77)
  • Iubilum, Op. 51 (1979–80)



Poster of The Competition (film), whose soundtrack includes Ginastera's "Piano Sonata No. 1"
  • Danzas argentinas, Op. 2 (1937)
  • Tres piezas, Op. 6 (1940)
  • Malambo, Op. 7 ( 1940)
  • "Pequena Danza" (from the ballet Estancia, Op. 8) (1941)
  • 12 Preludios americanos, Op. 12 (1944)
  • Suite de danzas criollas, Op. 15 (1946, rev. 1956)
  • Rondó sobre temas infantiles argentinos, Op. 19 (1947)
  • Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 22 (1952)
  • Arrangement of an Organ Toccata by Domenico Zipoli (1970)
  • Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 53 (1981)
  • Piano Sonata No. 3, Op. 54 (1982)
  • Danzas argentinas Para los ninos (Unfinished)
    1. Moderato: para Alex
    2. Paisaje: para Georgina


  • Toccata, Villancico y Fuga, Op. 18 (1947)
  • Variazioni e Toccata sopra Aurora lucis rutilat, Op. 52 (1980)
    Variación 1: Maestoso
    Variación 2: Tempo giusto
    Variación 3: Impetuoso, l'istesso tempo
    Variación 4: Vivacissimo
    Variación 5: L'istesso tempo
    Variación 6: L'istesso tempo
    Variación 7: Sereno
    Variación 8: Estatico
    Variación 9: Quasi allegretto
    Variación 10: Pastorale
    Variación 11: Andantino poetico
    Variación 12: Lento
    Toccata – Finale: Tema


  • 2 canciones, for voice and piano, Op. 3 (1938)
  • Cantos del Tucumán, for voice, flute, harp, percussion, and violin, Op. 4 (1938)
  • Psalm 150, for chorus, Op. 5 (1938)
  • 5 canciones populares argentinas, for voice and piano, Op. 10 (1943)
  • Las horas de una estancia, for voice and piano, Op. 11 (1943)
  • Hieremiae prophetae lamentationes, for chorus, Op. 14 (1946)
  • Cantata para América mágica, for dramatic soprano and percussion orchestra, Op. 27 (1960)
  • Cantata Bomarzo, for soloists, narrator, and chamber orchestra, Op. 32 (1964)
  • Milena, for soprano and orchestra, Op. 37 (1971)
  • Serenata, for baritone, violoncello, wind quintet, percussion, harp, and double bass, Op. 42 (1973)
  • Turbae ad passionem gregorianam, for soloists, chorus, boy's chorus and orchestra, Op. 43 (1975)
  • Canción del beso robado, for voice and piano (19??)

Chamber/solo instrumental[edit]

  • Duo, for flute and oboe, Op. 13 (1945)
  • Pampeana No. 1, for violin and piano, Op. 16 (1947)
  • String Quartet No. 1, Op. 20 (1948)
  • Pampeana No. 2, for violoncello and piano, Op. 21 (1950)
  • String Quartet No. 2, Op. 26 (1958, Rev. 1968)
  • Piano Quintet, Op. 29 (1963)
  • String Quartet No. 3, for soprano and string quartet, Op. 40 (1973)
  • Puneña No. 1, for flute, Op. 41 (1973, left incomplete at the time of the composer's death)
  • Puneña No. 2 ("Hommage à Paul Sacher"), for violoncello, Op. 45 (1976)
  • Sonata for guitar, Op. 47 (1976, Rev. 1981)
  • Sonata for cello and piano, Op. 49 (1979)

Works withdrawn by the composer (without opus number)[edit]

  • Piezas Infantiles, for piano (1934)
  • Impresiones de la Puna, for flute and string quartet (1934)
  • Concierto argentino, for piano and orchestra (1936)
  • El arriero canta, for chorus (1937)
  • Sonatina, for harp (1938)
  • Symphony No. 1 ("Porteña") (1942)
  • Symphony No. 2 ("Elegíaca") (1944)

Incidental/film music[edit]

  • Don Basilio malcasado (1940)
  • Doña Clorinda la descontenta (1941)
  • Malambo (1942)
  • Rosa de América (1945)
  • Las antiguas semillas (1947)
  • Nace la libertad (1949)
  • El puente (1950)
  • Facundo, el tigre de los llanos (1952)
  • Caballito criollo (1953)
  • Su seguro servidor (1954)
  • Los maridos de mamá (1956)
  • Enigma de mujer (1956)
  • Primavera de la vida (1958)
  • Hay que bañar al nene (1958)
  • El límite (1958)
  • A María del corazón (1960)
  • La doncella prodigiosa (1961)


  • Bomarzo, The Opera Society of Washington, Julius Rudel, conductor; 1967 recording[full citation needed] re-released on Sony Classical in 2016.[full citation needed]
  • Cantata para América Mágica, Raquel Adonaylo, soprano; Los Angeles Percussion Ensemble, William Kraft, conductor. With: Carlos Chávez, Toccata for Percussion, Henri Temianka, conductor. LP recording, analog, 33⅓ rpm, stereo, 12 in. Columbia Masterworks MS 6447. New York: Columbia Records, 1963.
  • Cantata para America Magica, McGill Percussion Ensemble, P. Béluse, director, Elise Bédard, soprano, McGill Records CD, 1997.
  • Complete works for piano, Andrzej Pikul (piano), Dux Recording Producers, 2007.[4]
  • Quartet No. 1, Paganini Quartet, Decca Gold Label.
  • Art Songs of Latin-America, Patricia Caicedo, soprano & Pau Casan, piano – Albert Moraleda Records, Barcelona, 2001 – Cinco canciones populares argentinas by Ginastera & Canción al árbol del olvido
  • 2007 – Flores Argentinas: Canciones de Ginastera y Guastavino / Inca Rose Duo: Annelise Skovmand, voice; Pablo González Jazey, guitar. Cleo Productions, Cleo Prod 1002. Arrangements by González Jazey for voice and guitar of: "Cinco canciones populares argentinas op.10" y "Dos canciones op.3"
  • Arrangement of Piano Concerto No. 1; 4th movement; as "Toccata", Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Brain Salad Surgery, 1973.
  • Nissman Plays Ginastera: The Three Piano Concertos. Barbara Nissman, piano; Kenneth Kiesler, conductor; University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra. (CD) Pierian 0048 (2012)
  • Complete piano solo and piano/chamber works, Barbara Nissman (piano) with Aurora Natola-Ginastera (cello), Ruben Gonzales (violin) and the Laurentian String Quartet. Three Oranges Recordings (3OR-01)
  • Popol Vuh – The Mayan Creation, Estancia, Panambi, Suite de Danzas Criollas (world premiere of orchestral version), Ollantay. Gisele Ben-Dor, conductor. London Symphony Orchestra, Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Naxos, 2010. [1]
  • Panambi, Estancia (complete Ballets), Gisele Ben-Dor, conductor. Luis Gaeta, narrator/bass baritone. London Symphony Orchestra. Naxos, 1998&2006. [2]
  • Glosses on Themes of Pablo Casals, Variaciones concertantes. Gisele Ben-Dor, conductor. London Symphony Orchestra. Israel Chamber Orchestra. Naxos 1995&2010. [3]
  • John Antill: Corroboree ballet suite and Ginastera: Panambi ballet suite, London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Eugene Goossens, conductor, Everest stereo LP, SDBR 3003
  • String Quartets – "Ginastera: String Quartets," Cuarteto Latinoamericano, with Claudia Montiel, soprano [Elan 82270]


  1. ^ Deborah Schwartz-Kates, "Ginastera, Alberto (Evaristo)", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001); Evett, Robert. 1966. "The South American Way", New Republic 154, no. 12 (19 March): 35; Anon. "Obituary: Alberto Ginastera". The Musical Times 124, no. 1687, Music of the French Baroque (September 1983): 568; Aurelio de la Vega, "Trends of Present-Day Latin-American Music", Journal of Inter-American Studies 1, no. 1 (January 1959): 97–102, citation on p. 10; Norman Lebrecht, Companion to Twentieth-century Music (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992): 134. Reprint New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 9780306807343; Levin Houston, "Kennedy Center Sees Beatrix Cenci", The Free Lance-Star [Fredericksburg, Virginia] 87, no. 215 (13 September 1971); Suzanne Spicer Tiemstra, The Choral Music of Latin America: A Guide to Compositions and Research, Contributions in Afro-American & African Studies 36 (New York: Greenwood Press, 1992): 2. ISBN 9780313282089.
  2. ^ Deborah Schwartz-Kates. Alberto Ginastera. P.20
  3. ^ Alberto Ginastera, Argentine Cultural Construction, and the Gauchesco Tradition by Deborah Schwartz-Katz, The Musical Quarterly, Summer 2002
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-10-03. Retrieved 2010-10-23. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Calleja, Marianela: Ideas of Time in Music: A Philosophico-logical Investigation Applied to Works of Alberto Ginastera (1916–1983). Studia musicologica Universitatis Helsingiensis, 24. (Ph.D. thesis.) Helsinki University, 2013. ISSN 0787-4294 ISBN 978-952-10-8992-3 (On-line version.)

External links[edit]