I’m writing a paper about the Ginastera Harp Concerto, and need to write about the piece
in general as well as some of the conducting problems it poses.
The biggest conducting problem I think, from the harpist’s point of view is balance. The percussionists like to think it is a concerto for them, which isn’t helped by the fact that excerpts from it are standard audition repertoire for them. They are not playing solo parts. Ginastera used folk ideas as a part of his orchestral fabric, not as a dominant element. Compare it to pieces like Pampeana No. 3 and the Variaciones Concertantes. When they start whaling away on those tom-toms they make it sound tribal, when it is an elegant, classy concert work for harp. The conductor has to keep a strict lid on their exuberance. I would like to know how the original differs from the published music, and how that affects the third movement in which, to me, the harp part makes little or no sense. I also have trouble with how he uses the harp to imitate a guitar in the beginning of the cadenza, which is the heart and soul of the piece, and while it is a typical musical gesture, he could have easily chosen a different set of intervals that would have said something about the harp.
These are 3 links to errors in the orchestra parts that are available on rental from Boosey. Adding these to your paper would be helpful to all who access your work.
To any soloist: Forward these to the orchestra librarian long before you play this wonderful composition and you will have a better rehearsal.
I was just playing some beautiful Ginastera song accompaniments on the harp (although written for piano) and remembered reading your post the other day, i know this is from years ago but I thought I’d add my tuppence worth incase anyone else stumbled across it researching the Ginastera concerto – the guitar motif (you probably know this anyway!) is one of Ginastera’s little stamps. (I’ve just this moment played it several times) So, rather than saying anything about the harp, the guitar or even the piece, when he opens the 2nd movement with those 6 guitar string notes, he may have just been stamping his own favourite motif on the music – like Shostakovich’s initials all over his music, or an artist’s trademark brushstroke or emblem. I like it! 🙂 Apologies if since writing this you’ve played other pieces by him and noticed the same!
Ellie, it doesn’t surprise me at all. Turina also did it a lot. It just pushes a button for me, I would have done a chord in fifths, not fourths.
Jim, I am fairly certain that on Zabaleta’s recording with Martinon, which is still the best-conducted performance I’ve heard, he is using free bowing in the strings, unless it is a reverb studio effect. It sounds like what Stokowski would do, and it adds a lot of color, while keeping the volume down. Do you know what I mean? It has a lot of extra shimmer.
Having heard the Concerto performed with piano, it made clear the classicism and elegance of the music with the orchestral color removed. That also swings the balance away from heavy percussion and so on. It is very linear music.
Harmonically, the piece is very interesting. The opening is similar to Salzedo’s writing, but Ginastera has contrasting chords at the same time in different registers. It’s similar to Rodrigo and Tailleferre, the what I call color-stream writing.
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