Ginastera: Estancia, Op 8; Ollantay, Op 17; Pampeana No 3, Op 24

Reviewed on Thu 18 Feb, 2016

Estancia's best-known numbers remain the swaggering malambos in 6/8 time, above all the thrillingly exuberant final dance, though there's also much that ravishes the ear in the gentler scenes (try No 9, 'Twilight Idyll').

The main offering on this first volume from Chandos of orchestral music by that doyen of Argentine composers, Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983), comprises the one-act ballet Estancia that he wrote in 1941 for Lincoln Kirstein's soon-to-be-disbanded Ballet Caravan. Consequently, the ballet had to wait until 1952 for its first staging, by which time Ginastera was well and truly established, the hugely successful 1943 world premiere of the concert suite in Buenos Aires's Teatro Colón having effectively made his name overnight. Set on a cattle ranch in the uncompromisingly tough world of the gauchos, it's a most enjoyable score, colourful, roistering and atmospheric by turns. The best-known numbers remain the swaggering malambos in 6/8 time, above all the thrillingly exuberant final dance, though there's also much that ravishes the ear in the gentler scenes (try No 9, 'Twilight Idyll'). Inspired by an ancient Inca myth, Ollantay (1947) proves an often imposing, darkly dramatic symphonic triptych and is well worth getting to know, as for that matter is Pampeana No 3 (1954, and revised 13 years later), likewise cast in three movements and a deeply-felt response to the awesome grandeur and beauty of the vast Argentine interior. Suffice to say, Juanjo Mena has this music in his bones and he encourages the BBC Philharmonic to give of its considerable best. With demonstration-worthy sonics, this is a release that deserves the widest currency.
–Andrew Achenbach