Other Free Encyclopedias » Brief Biographies » Biographies: E(mily) R. Frank (1967-) Biography - Personal to Martha Graham (1893–1991) Biography » Alberto Ginastera: 1916-1983: Argentine Composer Biography - Composed Ballet Scores, Employed Serial Technique, Married Argentine Cellist

Alberto Ginastera: 1916-1983: Argentine Composer - Composed Ballet Scores

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Ginastera graduated from the Williams Conservatory in 1935 with a gold medal in composition and moved on to Argentina's National Conservatory. He began composing in the early 1930s but destroyed all copies of many of his early works. A suite of excerpts from Panambí, a ballet score, was performed in 1937 in a concert led by one of Argentina's leading conductors, and the entire ballet won the National Prize of Argentina three years later. Another ballet, Estancia, was commissioned by the American Ballet Caravan, an influential American company. Ginastera completed the work, and again a performance of orchestral excerpts excited audiences. But World War II delayed Ginastera's planned visit to the United States, and by the time he arrived after the war the company had been disbanded.

Nevertheless, Ginastera found American cultural freedom exhilarating. After clashing with the authoritarian government of Argentine strongman Juan Perón, he had been forced to resign a teaching position in Argentina, but in the United States his works were performed by major ensembles such as the NBC Symphony Orchestra. At the Tanglewood summer festival in Massachusetts, Ginastera studied with American composer Aaron Copland, whose folk-influenced yet intricately crafted music had affinities with Ginastera's own. In 1948 Ginastera returned to Argentina to direct the music school at the National University in the city of La Plata.

At a Glance . . .

Born Alberto Evaristo Ginastera on April 11, 1916, in Buenos Aires, Argentina; died on June 25, 1983, in Geneva, Switzerland; married Mercedes de Toro on December 11, 1941 (divorced); married Aurora Nátola (a cellist) in September 1971; children: (first marriage) two. Education: Williams Conservatory, Buenos Aires, gold medal graduate, 1935; National Conservatory of Argentina, graduate, 1938.

Career: Composer, 1937-83; National Conservatory of Argentina, faculty, 1941-46; National University, La Plata, faculty, 1948-mid-1950s; Catholic University of Argentina, dean of Musical Arts and Sciences, 1958-62; Latin American Center for Advanced Musical Studies, Buenos Aires, director, 1962-69.

Selected awards: Guggenheim fellowship, 1942 (reception delayed until 1945); honorary doctorates from Yale University in 1968 and Temple University in 1975; UNESCO International Music Council music prize, 1981.

Ginastera's works up to this point had been in a predominantly nationalist idiom, flavored by Argentine folk melodies and rhythms. Yet his nationalism was of a compositionally rigorous kind; he did not simply quote folk melodies, but rather employed such procedures as the elaboration, over the span of an entire composition, of a characteristic guitar chord heard in Argentine gaucho or cowboy music. In the early 1950s, falling afoul once again of the Perónista government, Ginastera threw himself into composition and distilled these folk-flavored but formally sophisticated procedures down to ever more abstract levels. Such works as the Piano Sonata No. 1 and the Variaciones concertantes became among Ginastera's most widely played, and, almost alone among works by contemporary composers, enjoyed favor with both audiences and academic specialists.

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