Gisele Ben-Dor / Israel Chamber Orchestra / London Symphony Orchestra

Ginastera: Glosses on Themes of Pablo Casals; Variaciones concertantes

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AllMusic Review by

Variaciones concertantes (1953) may be Ginastera's most immediately engaging symphonic piece, and this version is among its finest recorded performances. Uruguyan conductor Gisèle Ben-dor, leading the Israel Chamber Orchestra, knows when to let its relaxed slow movements unfold with just the right Latinate languor, and she drives its fast movements with exhilarating momentum. It is essentially a concerto for orchestra, with individual variations highlighting solo instruments or sections -- it's hard to see why it hasn't taken a place next to Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra -- and each soloist here turns in superbly nuanced performances. The cello soloist who is assigned the work's theme at the opening stands out in particular, playing its final, impossibly stratospheric harmonic note with piercing purity and sweetness, to devastatingly intense effect. The pieces are framed by performances of two versions of Ginastera's Glosses on Themes of Pablo Casals, which he wrote in the final decade of his life in memory of the great cellist, who had been a supporter of his music and who was a mentor to his wife, cellist Aurora Natola-Ginastera. The composer had spent a portion of his mature career as a modernist, but in this work, originally for string quintet and string orchestra, and then arranged for full orchestra, he returned to the accessibility of the works of his youth. The characteristics of that youthful period -- a plangent lyricism and a surging rhythmic exuberance -- are evident in his homage to Casals, although they are also informed by an expanded technical resourcefulness. In tone, they earnestly express Ginastera's devotion to and reverence for the cellist, and the lasting impression they leave is one of serene contemplation. The London Symphony Orchestra, under Ben-dor's sensitive leadership, turns in a warmly radiant performance. The sound is clean, with a good sense of presence.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Glosses on Themes of Pablo Casals, for orchestra, Op. 48
1
7:01
2
3:08
3
2:42
4
3:16
5
1:45
Variaciones concertantes, for chamber orchestra, Op. 23
6
2:13
7
1:48
8
1:01
9
1:59
10
3:43
11
2:45
12
0:35
13
1:06
14
2:17
15
1:21
16
2:00
17
3:40
Glosses on Themes of Pablo Casals, for orchestra, Op. 48
18
6:02
19
3:11
20
2:24
21
2:58
22
1:36
blue highlight denotes track pick