The Argentine Genius of Alberto Ginastera: Pampeana, Op. 21, No. 2

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An analysis of the 20th century Argentine composer's midlife work, the second period of his compositional eras, Pampeana No, 2 for cello and piano

Alberto Ginastera tended to view his creative evolution as following the pattern of three distinct compositional periods. Despite the classification of three compositional periods, Ginastera demonstrates a remarkable continuity in terms of his approach to composition. The first, beginning with his ballet, Panambi, Op. 1, composed in 1936, lasted for nearly twelve years and was termed by the composer as his period of objective nationalism. His music of this period is characterized by the presence of Argentine traits and themes, predominantly tonal, and evidences the rhythmic and melodic influences of Argentine folk music, both song and dance. The second period, beginning with his String Quartet No. 1, composed in 1948, is referred to as the subjective nationalism stage. This period was to last for the next six years. His third period, termed neo-expressionism, began with the composition of the String Quartet No. 2, composed in 1958. The music of this period is characterized by his use of twelve-tone serial composition, polytonality, the use of quarter and micro-tones and aleatory (chance) procedures.

A national trend of Argentine literature began in the nineteenth century in which the gaucho was idolized as a brave, nomadic creature always in conflict with civilization and progress. This trend, combined with eulogies of his land, the pampa, inspired the composer to write his three Pampeanas: the first for violin, the second for cello and piano and the third for orchestra. The Pampeana No. 2 includes folk themes that are strongly implied through simplistically classic harmonies and the complex, driving gaucho rhythms.

The composer described his motivation for writing these works: "...Whenever I have crossed the pampa or have lived in it for a time, my spirit felt itself inundated by changing impressions, now joyful, now melancholy, some full of euphoria and others replete with a profound tranquility, produced by its limitless immensity and by the transformation that the countryside undergoes in the course of the day... From my first contact with the pampa, there awakened in me the desire to write a work that would reflect these states of my spirit..."

Author’s addendum:

• Recommended listening: The linked file below represents a good live performance of the work for cello and piano.  The cover image is courtesy of Boosey & Hawkes from a photo from the mid-1970's.  The scores and recordings of all works mentioned here are available for purchase. Please support those working in the arts and purchase music and art legally. Thank you.

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Ileen Zovluck
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Posted on Aug 10, 2010
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Salvatore W. Delle Palme
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Posted on Aug 10, 2010