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Biography of

Alberto Ginastera

11 apr 1916 (Buenos Aires) - 25 jun 1983 (Geneva)
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Alberto Ginastera.

Alberto Evaristo Ginastera (April 11, 1916 – June 25, 1983) was an Argentine composer of classical music. He is considered one of the most important Latin American classical composers.



Ginastera was born in Buenos Aires to a Catalan father and an Italian mother. He preferred to pronounce his surname in its Catalan pronunciation, with an English J sound (IPA: [dʒinaˈsteɾa]) rather than a Spanish J sound (IPA: [xinaˈsteɾa]).

He studied at the conservatory in Buenos Aires, graduating in 1938. 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. He moved back to the United States in 1968 and from 1970 lived in Europe. He died in Geneva at the age of 67.

Among his notable students were Ástor Piazzolla (who studied with him in 1941), Alcides Lanza, Waldo de los Ríos, and Rafael Aponte-Ledée.


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.

The progressive rock group Emerson, Lake & Palmer brought Ginastera attention outside of modern classical music circles when they adapted the fourth movement of his first piano concerto and recorded it on their popular album Brain Salad Surgery under the title "Toccata". They recorded the piece not only with Ginastera's permission, but with his endorsement. In 1973, when they were recording the album, Keith Emerson met with Ginastera at his home in Switzerland and played a recording of his arrangement for him. Ginastera is reported to have said, "Diabolical!". Emerson misunderstood Ginastera's meaning: Ginastera spoke almost no English and meant that their interpretation was frightening, which had been his intent when he wrote it; Emerson, being British, took it to mean "awful". Emerson was so upset that he was prepared to scrap the piece until Ginastera's wife intervened saying that he approved. Ginastera later said, "You have captured the essence of my music, and no one's ever done that before." This experience is detailed in the liner notes to Brain Salad Surgery. Emerson would later go on to release an adaptation of one of the pieces from Ginastera's Suite de Danzas Criollas entitled "Creole Dance". "Toccata" also gained fame as the theme to the New England cult TV show Creature Double Feature. Italian neo-classical electric guitarist Alex Masi has also recorded an adaptation of "Toccata," one strongly based on the aforementioned ELP version, rather than the original orchestral piece. It can be found on 1989's "Attack of the Neon Shark".

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

A portion of Ginastera's Sonata For Piano is performed in the movie The Competition, and the piece is included in the movie soundtrack.


Julián Aguirre Conservatory of Music, founded by Ginastera in 1951.


  • Don Rodrigo, Op. 31 (1964)
  • Bomarzo, Op. 34 (1967), banned in Argentina until 1972
  • Beatrix Cenci, Op. 38 (1971), based on the play The Cenci (1819) by Percy Bysshe Shelley


  • Panambí, Op. 1 (1934–1936)
  • Estancia, Op. 8 (1941)

Four Dances from "Estancia" were transcribed for symphonic wind ensemble by MSgt Donald Patterson, and recorded by Colonel Michael Colburn and "The President's Own" United States Marine Band. This arrangement was also recorded by the Marine Band live in concert led by guest conductor Jose Serebrier (available on the Naxos label).


  • Overture to the Creole Faust (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 for strings, Op. 33 (1966)
  • Estudios Sinfonicos, Op. 35 (1967)
  • Popol Vuh, Op. 44 (1975-1983, left incomplete at the composer's death)
  • Glosses on themes of Pablo Casals, for strings, Op. 46 (1976)
  • Glosses on themes of Pablo Casals, for orchestra, Op. 48 (1977)
  • Iubilum, Op. 51 (1980)


  • Harp Concerto, Op. 25 (1956)
  • Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 28 (1961)
1. Cadenza e varianti
2. Scherzo allucinante
3. Adagissimo
4. Toccata concertata
  • Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 39 (1972)
1. 32 variazioni sopra un accordo di Beethoven
2. Scherzo per la mano sinistra
3. Quasi una fantasia
4. Cadenza
5. Finale prastissimo
  • Violin Concerto, Op. 30 (1963)
  • Cello Concerto No. 1, Op. 36 (1968)
  • Cello Concerto No. 2, Op. 50 (1980)


  • Danzas argentinas, Op. 2 (1937)
  • Milonga, Op. 3
  • Three pieces (Tres piezas), Op. 6 (1940)
  • Malambo, Op. 7 ( 1940)
  • "Little Dance" from the ballet Estancia, Op. 8
  • Twelve American preludes (Doce preludios americanos), Op. 12 (1944)
  • Suite of Creole dances (Suite de danzas criollas), Op. 15 (1946)
  • Rondo on Argentine children's folk-tunes (Rondó sobre temas infantiles argentinos), Op. 19 (1947)
  • Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 22 (1952)
  • Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 53 (1981)
  • Piano Sonata No. 3, Op. 54 (1982)
  • Piezas Infantiles (1934)
  • Danzas argentinas Para los ninos
    • I. Moderato for Alex
    • II. Passage Paisaje for Georgina
  • Toccata for piano (1970)
  • Arrangement of an Organ Toccata by Domenico Zipoli


  • 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

Vocal/choral orchestral

  • Two songs (Dos canciones), for voice and piano, Op. 3 (1937)
  • Psalm 150, Op. 5 (1938)
  • Cinco canciones populares argentinas, for voice and piano, Op. 10 (1943)
  • Las horas de una estancia (Ocampo), for voice and piano, Op. 11 (1943)
  • Lamentaciones de Jeremias Propheta, Op. 14 (1946)
  • Cantata para América Mágica, for dramatic soprano and percussion orchestra, Op. 27 (1960)
  • Bomarzo Op. 32 (1964), a cantata described as "distinct from the opera" by the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music
  • Milena, Cantata No. 3 for soprano and orchestra, Op. 37 (1971)
  • Turbae, for soloists, chorus and orchestra, Op. 43 (1975)
  • Canción del beso robado, for voice and piano (19??, Doubtful work)


  • 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 cello and piano, Op. 21 (1950)
  • String Quartet No. 2, Op. 26 (1958)
  • Piano Quintet, Op. 29 (1963)
  • String Quartet No. 3, Op. 40 (1973)
  • Puneña No. 2, Op. 45, 'Hommage à Paul Sacher' for cello solo (1976)
  • Guitar Sonata, Op. 47 (1976)
  • Sonata for violoncello and piano, Op. 49 (1979)

Works withdrawn by the composer (without opus number)

  • Impresiones de la Puna - Flauta y cuerdas
  • "Amiro canta" - Canción
  • Sonatina para arpa
  • Canciones infantiles para piano
  • "La Cenicienta" - two pianos
  • "La moza de los ojos negros" - Soprano and piano
  • Argentine Concerto / Concierto Argentino, for piano and orchestra (1937)
  • Canciones y danzas argentinas para violín y piano
  • Sinfonia porteña
  • Sinfonia elegíaca
  • Incidental music for theater and film and some transcriptions


  • Cantata para América Mágica, Los Angeles Percussion Ensemble, H. Temianka, conductor, and W. Kraft, director, Columbia Masterworks, 1963.
  • 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"

External links

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Alberto Ginastera. Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.
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