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Alberto Ginastera: 1916-1983: Argentine Composer

Employed Serial Technique

After several years of making a living by composing film scores, Ginastera returned to teaching in 1958 when the political situation improved, setting up a new music school at the Catholic University of Argentina. Major American commissions for new works continued to flow his way. His Cantata para América Mágica and Piano Concerto No. 1 were performed at the Second Inter-American Music Festival in 1961. These works submerged the specifically Argentine elements of his style in favor of the complex "serialist" technique—formulated in interwar Austria and elaborated in the United States—that was then in vogue. Serialist works developed entire structures from a specific permutation of the 12 notes available in the musical octave—a procedure not unfamiliar to Ginastera, who even in his Argentine-flavored works had constructed large musical shapes from small melodic and harmonic cells.

The New York Times complained that in the Piano Concerto No. 1 "too many styles jostle," but generally such works found more favor in the experimentally minded United States than in Argentina. For a time Ginastera, like his tango-composing countryman Astor Piazzolla, found himself estranged from audiences in his native land. Ginastera composed three operas in the 1960s and early 1970s; Don Rodrigo, Bomarzo, and Beatrix Cenci found performances at major American opera houses (tenor Plácido Domingo starred in the Don Rodrigo premiere), but Bomarzo, which contained sexually explicit scenes, was banned in Argentina. Ginastera responded with a ban of his own—he forbade performances of any of his works in Argentina until the restriction was lifted, and Bomarzo (which even in Washington had so disturbed some members of the original cast that they dropped out of the production) was performed in Buenos Aires in 1972.

Additional topics

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