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Music Review: Ginastera portrays the energetic Argentinian in Popol Vuh


Capturing the essence of the Argentinian life, Alberto Ginastera composed ballets and orchestral suites that show ranchers and the wild landscapes of Argentina.  Energetic and exciting, these recordings are not justly described in the insert.

The album opens with The Land Workers movement of the Ballet Estancia, which starts the CD strongly with accented brass and percussion melodies.  With heavy use of the winds and percussion, some parts sound more like a concert band than an orchestra.  This is not a detriment to the sounds that Ginastera has created, and instead gives a different sound than most contemporary composers.

The album is a great listen as the pieces alternate between extremely fast to slow and thoughtful.   The faster movements or ballet scenes are almost chase-like, alluding to scenes of rodeos and dances of warriors.  The ballets and orchestral suites are relatively short, which makes them great, as there are so many interesting themes in each movement. 

Alberto Ginastera was born in 1916 in Buenos Aires to a non-musical family.  Though national pride and folk themes is usually a romantic era idea, Ginaestra is proud of his Argentinian heritage in the twentieth century.  Folk songs fade in and out of the melodies and the themes are based around life and religion of the Argentian people.

Popol Vuh, the Orchestral Suite and name of this CD, has its premier recording.  Based on the book that holds the pagan-like myths of the aboriginal Argentinians, Popol Vuh gives yet another version of the creation story.  That creation story is  wonderfully prottrayed in Ginastera’s composition.  The Philadelphia Orchestra and conductor Eugene Ormandy originally commissioned Popol Vuh in 1982, but tragically Ginastera passed away in 1983 and Ormandy in 1985, and the piece was forgotten about until now.

A great finish to an outstanding album, Popol Vuh stands out in the spectrum of twentieth century music.  Fiercely nationalistic, Ginastera’s music will always be strongly associated with the land and workers of Argentina.