For a composer like Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983), whose piano works were such a significant part of his output, it's fascinating to have the opportunity to trace his development through a chronological survey of his complete music for keyboard. Ginastera destroyed most of his juvenilia, but even his Piezas infantiles, written when he was 18 (and which he withdrew from his catalog, but which are recorded here), show a sure command of form and material. His first published piano work, Danzas Argentinas, Op. 2, reveals a composer who has come into his own, with a distinctive and powerful voice. The movements are based on popular dance forms, but don't use preexisting folk material. They are bursting with rhythmic energy and harmonic abandon and display many of the characteristics of Ginastera's early nationalistic style -- rhythmically driven movements in triple time charged with momentum through the use of hemiolas and changing meters, alternating with incredibly sensual and languid slow movements. Suite de Danzas Criollas (1946) is perhaps the most striking example of his piano music from this period. It retains the vitality and languor of his earlier works, but exhibits an increasingly technical sophistication -- one of its high points is a lyrical, chromatically luscious canon in 11/8. The First Piano Sonata (1952) is deservedly one of the composer's most popular works. The folk elements are still present, but have been absorbed into a more abstract and complex but still sensuously appealing tonal language. In the 1960s Ginastera began to adopt a more international, modernist style in most of his music, but the Second (1981) and Third (1982) sonatas break no new ground. They are stylistically similar to the First Sonata, and while their material lacks its high dramatic profile, they are attractive pieces. The organ work Variazioni e Toccata sopra "Aurora lucis rutilat" (1980), which is recorded here for the first time, again displays Ginastera's rhythmic vitality and his gift for creating moments of limpid serenity.
Argentinean pianist and organist Fernando Viani plays as though he had this music in his blood. He is fully equipped to handle the music's outrageously virtuosic demands. The way he tears through the fast movements is thrilling, generating the kind of visceral charge the composer must have had in mind, and he is equally effective in bringing out the lyric poetry of the slow movements. Naxos' sound is clean and nicely reverberant in the organ pieces.