Gisele Ben-Dor

Ginastera: Popol Vuh

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Naxos' 2010 collection of orchestral works by Alberto Ginastera conducted by Uruguayan-born Gisèle Ben-Dor includes both music from previous recordings and performances released here for the first time. Ben-Dor's recording of the complete ballets Panambí and Estancia (the latter a world premiere recording) was first released on Conifer in 1999 and reissued on Naxos in 2006. Suites from the ballets are among the composer's most popular and frequently performed works, but these "extended suites" are essentially excerpts drawn from the earlier complete recordings and include a substantial amount of music that will be new to most listeners. These versions include music that is frequently more lyrical than the rambunctious dances of the traditional suites and offer a fuller view of the expressive range of each of the ballets. Ben-Dor draws energetic, atmospheric performances from the London Symphony Orchestra. The newly issued works include an orchestration of the piano work Suite de Danzas Criollas from 1946, the orchestral triptych Ollantay from 1946-1947, and the magisterial tone poem Popul Vuh, which the composer left incomplete at his death in 1983. Ben-Dor commissioned Israeli composer Shimon Cohen to orchestrate Suite de Danzas Criollas in 2002. It's a serviceable arrangement, but it ultimately fails to make as strong an impression as the original because Cohen doesn't seem able to translate the idiomatic piano writing into persuasively idiomatic orchestral scoring. The performance, by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, is the weakest on the disc, rhythmically hazy in the slow movements and lacking in incisiveness and punch in the fast movements. Ginastera had completed all but the last movement of Popul Vuh: The Mayan Creation at his death, but the final complete movement he wrote is so powerful that it brings the work to an entirely satisfactory close. It's a superb summation of his career; he brought to it the full arsenal of contemporary techniques he had assimilated, as well as the visceral rhythmic drive familiar from his early, nationalist period, and it's fascinating to hear it in this context, juxtaposed with his more familiar, populist works. The performance, with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, is fine as far as it goes, but it doesn't capture the work's evocative strangeness or its exhilarating primal explosiveness quite as well as Stefan Asbury's version on Neos with the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln. The disc literally spans the composer's career, with Ginastera's Panambí, Op. 1, and Popol Vuh his last work, and while it doesn't include examples of his rigorously modernist middle period, it's a good introduction to one of the masters of mid-20th century music.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Estancia, Op. 8
1 2:52
2 3:07
3 2:01
4 2:49
5 3:31
Suite de Danzas Criollas (Suite of Native Dances), Op. 15
6 1:55
7 0:38
8 1:54
9 1:43
10 3:00
Panambí, Op. 1
11 1:56
12 2:09
13 1:17
14 2:10
15 5:01
Ollantay (A Symphonic Triptych), Op. 17
16 4:10
17 3:05
18 5:11
Popol Vuh: The Mayan Creation, Op. 44
19 5:32
20 4:32
21 5:00
22 0:25
23 3:15
24 2:33
25 1:35
26 1:15
blue highlight denotes track pick