Naxos sandwiches the Variaciones concertantes between the two versions of the Glosses, but I shall take the former up first, because they are the reason these pieces first came to my attention – at a recent Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Chamber Series concert conducted by Francesco Lecce-Chong at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee ZelazoCenter. In twelve sections, this very appealing work has a duration is about twenty-four and a half minutes. The scoring is for two flutes, piccolo, oboe, two clarinets, bassoon, two horns, trumpet, trombone, timpani, harp and strings.
The Variaciones opens very softly with the theme on the harp, which is almost immediately joined by a solo cello. After the first of two interludes, for strings, individual solos from various instruments follow: flute, clarinet, viola, oboe and bassoon; trumpet and trombone; violin and horn. After the second interlude, for wind choir, a double bass plays the theme initially introduced by the harp. The concluding section is a malambo, the gaucho dance.
The Glosses sobre temes de Pau Casals were commissioned for a centenary celebration of Casals birth – only three years after the death of this great and long-lived cellist. I never knew that Casals composed. Ginastera and his second wife, Aurora Nátola were personal friends of Ginastera; Casals and Ginastera shared Catalan ancestry also. Both Catalan and Argentine elements are used by Ginastera. There are also a couple of brief passages which seem to echo Stravinsky's Firebird and Petroushka.
The most notable difference between the all-strings and the orchestral versions of the Glosses is Ginastera's use of percussion in the latter, the opening movement of which is about a minute longer. The earlier version is thoroughly satisfying, however, with the percussive effects ably produced by remarkably sharp attacks by the strings. The birdlike effects in the fourth movement, Cant, inspired by a Catalan folk song, Song of the Birds, come through well in both versions. The uproarious finale, Conclusión delerant, manages to be just as loud with strings only. The Romanç movement is quiet and lovely in both versions, although the flute solo in the later version is especially beautiful. Rippling, shimmering or fluttering effects are effectively performed in both versions. The opening of the string version has rich string sounds; the orchestral version gives this to woodwinds, which here do not exhibit their distinctive timbres. Both of these versions are satisfying and it is good that both are provided here.
Copyright © 2014, R. James Tobin