Plácido Domingo / Gisele Ben-Dor / Ana María Martínez / Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra / Virginia Tola

Ginastera: The Vocal Album

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The music of Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera has survived quite a few changes in fashion, but his vocal output is seldom played. This unusual album by the revived Warner Classics is largely a project of the conductor Gisèle Ben-Dor, leading the largely unheralded, but entirely able, Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra in California. The album took shape over many years, with the various singers recorded separately, in the manner of a popular recording, and then stitched together. The contributions of Plácido Domingo, recorded in 2011 and 2014, are actually among the more recent ones, and he remains adept at husbanding his remaining vocal energy. The recordings go as far back as 2002, with the Cinco Canciones Populares Argentinas, Op. 10 (Five Argentine Popular Songs), originally for voice and piano but here transcribed (in a commission by the conductor) for orchestra, and sung with the right artless quality by soprano Ana María Martínez. Ginastera, like Aaron Copland, encompassed both nationalist and modernist music over his career and let the two styles interpenetrate to a degree. The opera Don Rodrigo, Op. 31, and the cantata Milena, Op. 37, both date from later in Ginastera's career. The rather overheated Don Rodrigo, in a broadly expressionist style, is notable for Domingo's contribution (as a young singer he performed in the work's premiere), but the real find here is Milena, based on Franz Kafka's letters to his Czech lover, Milena Jesenská; the text, in Spanish, is by Ginastera himself. The work is dramatic but complex in structure, and soprano Virginia Tola, recorded in 2008, catches the feverish quality of the work. Sample the opening "Praeludium" (track eight), with its fearful plea that "written kisses don't reach their destination; the ghosts drink them up along the way." A curious project that must have been something of a labor of love, this recording holds together much better than you would expect, and it revives some worthwhile music that has almost been forgotten.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Cinco Canciones Populares Argentinas, Op. 10
1 1:07
2 3:12
3 0:58
4 1:58
5 2:06
Don Rodrigo, Op. 31
6 5:49
7 11:37
Milena, Op. 37, cantata for soprano and orchestra
8 1:18
9 6:40
10 3:23
11 4:42
12 4:33
13 5:36
blue highlight denotes track pick