Ginastera, Alberto (1916-1983)
Born in 1916 in Argentina, Alberto Ginastera is certainly at the forefront of Latin-American composers. Like Bartók, he draws his inspiration from the themes and rhythms of the folklore of his country, as well as inventing his own 'folklore' based on South American culture in general.
Quartet n° 1, opus 20 (1948)
His first string quartet (1948) transports us by its rhythmic energy into the Argentinean pampas, where dance is one of the pillars of the culture. Indeed, we recognise in this work the warm and bright colours and the devilish rhythms of Latin-American dance. The alternating binary and ternary rhythms, the enchanting rhythms, the chromatic harmony, the fellings of passion, the evocation of the malambo (rural dance) and the copla (folksong) are all elements that make this quartet very attractive.
The guitar is the most popular instrument of South America, and Ginastera evokes it quite effectively at the beginning of the third movement by having the quartet play the six notes corresponding to its open strings. The use of special sound effects (harmonics, ponticello, col legno, glissandi) to create particular colours, are also an imitation of the abstract sounds that can be produced by the guitar. This quartet is remarkable for the great writing skill it shows; the language is modern with a highly chromatic harmony, clever false relations and a certain austerity. Ginastera was later to write two other works for quartet, each in turn moving more and more distant from Argentinean folklore.
Olga Ranzenhofer and Jean Portugais