I’ve always regarded Ginastera as a sort of Aaron Copland of the Pampas, with a dash of Villa-Lobos thrown in. This CD contains two ballet suites, from Ollantay and Pampeana No 3, and the complete Estancia (Cattle Ranch). Ollantay and Pampeana No 3 are both based on blood-thirsty pre-Colombian themes with descriptions of anacondas slithering through primeval slime and rather beautiful evocations of dawn and night. Ginastera certainly knew how to orchestrate.
Most people who buy this release will want it for the rarely heard complete Estancia, rather than the frequently heard Malambo, guaranteed to bring any audience to its feet. This is worth hearing in full, but half the work consists of Malambo-like movements, which anticipate the finale so heavily that Ginastera virtually steals his own thunder. The work’s subject is a
city slicker’s attempt to prove himself in a world dominated by machismo-flaunting gauchos (cowboys). Juanjo Mena and the BBC Phil play well but there’s not enough testosterone. The dances sound like a clique of haughty Argentinian polo players who’ve eloped with English heiresses.
What’s really bizarre is the narration and songs interpolated into the score, cheesily crooned by Lucas Somoza Osterc. It’s as if Leonard Bernstein recited Home on the Range in Appalachian Spring or Carmen Miranda had sung the Aria from the Fifth Bachianas Brasileiras.