Alberto Ginastera


Op. 47

About this work

For many years, the Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera shied away from writing any music for guitar. As a non-player, writing for the instrument was difficult and this fact, he said, "checked my creativity, although the guitar is the national instrument of my homeland." It was only in the 1970s, when the Brazilian guitarist Carlos Barbosa-Lima asked for a composition, that he finally wrote for the guitar. At that time, he said, he realized that the "guitar repertoire in fact consisted solely of little pieces, with virtually no large, uniform works." Therefore he decided to write a sonata in the standard four, albeit concise, movements, each lasting between two and four minutes. The sonata was quickly recognized as one of the major pieces in the guitar repertory.

Ginastera added a few musical "special effects" to the usual sounds of the guitar. The opening "Esordio" is built on two themes: One has the quality of an exhortation, with accompaniment of punctuating chords. The other theme is more lyrical, with percussion effects. The second-movement Scherzo is perhaps the most extreme in its use of unusual sound effects: glissandi of both single notes and chords, strumming on the strings in the area where they are attached to their tuning pegs, and causing the strings to snap against the fingerboard punctuate a rhythmic movement. At times, the rhythm stops for some serious-sounding out-of-tempo statements, which are then interrupted by the scherzo. However, the third movement, the "Canto" is entirely unmeasured, like a flowing, improvised serenade, with frequent changes of tempo and spirit. The final movement is a vigorous rondo, with rhythms that can be traced back to pre-Columbian cultures of the Pampas.