Tuesday 6 December 2016

Stolen Kisses: An homage to Alberto Ginastera

Lorena Paz Nieto
Songs by Alberto Ginastera; Lorena Paz Nieto, Horacio Lopez Redondo; Song in the City, and Spanish Song and Zarzuela Festival at St Botolph without Bishopsgate
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Dec 5 2016
Star rating: 4.0

A selection of songs by the Argentinian composer ranging from the folkloric to the more modernist

This year is the centenary of the Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera and on Monday 5 December 2016, Song in the City joined forces with the Third Spanish Song and Zarzuela Festival to present Solen Kisses: An homage to Alberto Ginastera at the Hall, St Botolph without Bishopsgate, London EC2M 3TL. Soprano Lorena Paz Nieto (whom we recently saw as Morgana in Royal Academy Opera's production of Handel's Alcina, see my review), and pianist Horacio Lopez Redondo performed a programme of Ginastera's songs including Cancion a la luna lunanca, Cancion al arbol del olvido, Cancion del beso robado, the song cycle Las horas de un estancia and Cinco canciones populares argentinas.

The first two songs were relatively early and showed Ginastera's use of popular Latin American rhythms. Cancion a la luna lunanca (Song to the moon) really made you want to sway to the music, whilst Cancion al arbol del olvido (Song to the tree of forgetfulness) was far more haunting. Lorena Paz Nieto sang with a lovely vibrant, lyric tone and, singing from memory, really conveyed the songs despite the fact that most of the audience did not understand the words. Horacio Lopez Redondo provided fine accompaniment, sympathetic to the way the music moved from pure Latin American rhythm to something more modern.

Ginastera's Las horas de una estancia (Times of day on a farm) is a cycle of five songs dating from 1943 (still in Ginastera's earliest period before his studies with Aaron Copland) setting words by Silvina Ocampo (1903-1993) each of which depict a different time of day (Dawn, Morning, Midday, Afternoon, Night). The texts are not purely descriptive and chatting to soprano Lorena Paz Nieto afterwards she described the poems as fantasmagorical. The piano writing was full of richly magical colours, and very evocative, and the traditional Argentine songs and rhythms are woven into the texture rather indicating the direction that Ginastera's music would take in the later 1940s. Ginastera seems to have been at pains to make the poetry speak, his vocal lines were quite plain almost invocations which were surrounded by the multiple colours of the piano. Because of the thematic links between the songs, I have to confess to getting a little lost as to which was which but there was no mistaking the wonderfully rich and exotic harmonies invoking the night. This is a tricky cycle to bring of and both Lorena Paz Nieto and Horacio Lopez Redondo impressed with the way they took us on a journey very far from the folkloric style of the rest of the programme.

With Cancion del beso robado (Song of the stolen kiss) we were back to the sounds and rhythms of Argentinian music, but this time filtered far more through the ears the mid-20th century, given an appealingly characterful performance by Lorena Paz Nieto.

Finally we heard one of Ginastera's best known works, the Cinco canciones populares argentinas (Five popular Argentine songs). Though the cycle dates to a year before Las horas de una estancia it couldn't be more different as each song encapsulated a particular popular song. But though you might at first think of Manuel de Falla's essay in a similar vein in Spanish song, the composer I first thought of was Benjamin Britten. Not that the two sound similar, but Ginastera's way of surrounding a folkloric vocal line with a more complex, more modern harmonic world reminded me very much of Britten's approach to folksong. Each song was distinctive and highly characterful, including the wonderful keening in Triste and concluding with the astonishing patter song Gato.

This was a lovely opportunity to get to know more of Ginastera's music. Ginastera is still a relatively neglected composer and we must hope that more of his music is brought to our attention during the centenary, but the fact that some of the scores had to be sent from Argentina is indicative of the problems. We did not have texts, but the performers introduced each song. Lorena Paz Nieto gave winning performances in both the more complex items and the more strongly folkloric ones, partnered finely by Horacio Lopez Redondo

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you Robert Hugill for coming to our concert!! Glad you enjoyed it!!

    Horacio López


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