Carlos Guastavino (1910-2000)

In the Spanish version of these postings, we quite often get comments from South American readers and just recently I heard from a person who lives in Argentine. She writes enthusiastically about the pianist Nora Alvarez and I have been looking at her website, where you can hear some of her music. Her recordings include works by Guastavino, an Argentinean composer who is new to me and who therefore I have been researching.

He was born in Santa Fe and at first studied chemical engineering but then won a scholarship that made it possible for him to study at the National Conservatory in Buenos Aires, later studying in Europe. He wrote a number of songs and song cycles as well as chamber music, sonatas for guitar and piano, and orchestral pieces. His ballets ‘Once Upon a Time’ and the ‘Suite Argentina’ are apparently typical of his use of national traditional dance rhythms and melodies, and were performed in London, Paris, Barcelona and Havana by the Ballet Espanol of Isabel Lopez.

An excellent pianist, he performed his works in Great Britain, the U.S.S.R. and China. Many famous artists including Teresa Berganza and Jose Carreras have included his songs in their programmes and recordings.

I have traced with the help of our local CD Shop a recording of some of his music for piano duet. Originally on one of the cheap Naxos discs, it is now published on their more expensive Marco Polo label, 8.223462, which I collected from my dealer today. This is really lovely music, delicate and elegant but then at other times robust and always seductively rhythmical. On the disc there is what I imagine to be a broad and representative selection of his music with four pieces that stand on their own and then four collected pieces such as the Romance del Plata which begins the programme and Las Presencias that concludes it.

I particularly enjoyed his arrangement of one of his songs, The Dove, which is typical of the delightful fluency of many of these pieces.

Unusually, the music on this disc combines two valuable qualities. The music is undemanding and easy to listen to but at the same time it rewards careful and appreciative listening. The excellent pianists are Hector Moreno and Norberto Capelli, who apparently have been playing together since 1974.