GINASTERA:  The Complete Music for Piano & Piano Chamber Ensemble. Sonata No. 1, Op. 22.  Sonata No. 2, Op. 53.  Sonata No. 3, Op. 55.  Danzas Argentinas, Op. 2.  Tres Piezas, Op. 6. Malambo, Op. 7.  Doce Preludios Americanos, Op. 12.  Suite de Danzas Criollas, Op. 15.  Rondó sobre temas infantiles argentinos, Op. 19.  Pampeana No. 1, Op. 16.  "Milonga" from Dos Canciones, Op. 3.  Tres Danzas from Estancia, Op. 8.  Toccata by Tipoli transcribed by Ginastera.  Quintet for Piano and String Quartet, Op. 25.  Pampeana No. 2, Op. 21.  Sonata Cello and Piano, Op. 49.
Barbara Nissman, pianist, with violinist Ruben Gonzalez, Laurentian String Quartet and Aurora Natola-Ginastera, cellist

PIERIAN 0005/6 (2 CDs) (F) (DDD) TT:  74:10 & 72:34

Three years after Albert Ginastera's death in 1983, Boosey & Hawkes published a complete catalog of his music with discography. It listed just a single disc by Barbara Nissman at the time (on then-CBS 71107, subsequently Sony), which included the first piano sonata, 12 American Preludes, and Suite de Danzas Criollas. Later on, presumably for Sony, she recorded the rest of Ginastera's solo piano music, and perhaps the four chamber works featuring piano that are listed above. The geneaology of these current,  duo-packed CDs reads as follows on the back cover of the program book:

"All selections previously released on Newport Classics 85510 and 88511 / Reproduced pursuant to express license from Sony Classical, a Division of Sony Music Entertainment. Inc. / © 2001 Pierian Recording Society / P 1991, 1992 Sony Music Entertainment, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED." In small type at the bottom of the page we find that "The Pieirian Recording Society is a non for profit, tax-exempt organization dedicated to the preservation of historic performances and obscure repertoire," reachable at P.O. Box 90476, Austin, TX 78709 (and adds "Women in Music, Volume Two").

Ginastera fans can be hugely grateful. Especially for the short (4:55) Sonata No. 3—the composer's last completed work in 1983, marked "impetuosamente," dedicated to Nissman. His expressed intention was to write a one-movement work "like Prokofiev's Third Sonata but similar in form to the earlier keyboard sonatas of Scarlatt—in two parts with an exntended virtuosic coda." A toccata-related rhythm underlies the music, which marked a return to the composer's roots. Not to be greedy or ungrateful, however, I'd like to hear Santiago Rodriguez play it, along with the other brief solo pieces by Ginastera not included on his incomparable 1988 Élan CD (2202).

Nissman is a dedicated artist as well as a pianist with chops. Her bio in the program begins with an assertion that she"made history in 1989 by becoming the first pianist to perform the complete [9] piano sonatas of Sergei Prokofiev in a series of three recitals in New York and London." (Whether or not the same thing had been done in the Soviet Union is not addressed, although it seems inconceivable that no one there had not.) Her playing of Ginastera is strongly, indeed powerfully in the Prokofiev mold, with a weighted tone, plenty of pedal (or was that producer Stephen Epstein's addition originally?), and a tendency to move slow movements along (ever so slightly but at the expense of poetic fantasy). Her music-making, though, is neither idiomatic nor sensuous in the way that Cuban-born Rodriguez's is (although he was raised in the U.S. from the age of nine), nor is her technique in his super-virtuoso class.

The first and second sonatas were Rodriguez's first recordings, made in 1983-84, issued originally on cassette in 1986 and two years later on CD with the addition of short pieces by AlbČniz, Falla, Granados and Ruvo). Schwann Opus 12 no longer lists Elan 2202, but there are bound to be copies around. No collection of Ginastera should be without it. For Nissman's part, she adds the two chamber-music Pampeanas - No. 1 (Op. 16) with violinist Ruben Gonzales, who plays elegantly, and No. 2 (Op. 21) with cellist Aurora Natola-Ginastera, who became the composer's second wife and self-ascribed muse in 1971. The widow also joins Nissman in the Op. 40 Sonata her husband wrote for her in 1979. The pianist's companionship with a Latin-American violinist and an Argentinian cellist adds a stylistic identification much-missed in the solo music. The Op. 25 Quintet, composed in 1963 and premiered at Venice by the Chigiano Quintet, is a "gloss" in effect on the composer's first piano concerto, played here with panache as well as subtlety by Nissman and the Laurentian Quartet (in residence at Sarah Lawrence College)—the best performance, along with Pampeana No. 1, in the collection.

This release is valuable, no question, and the Pierian Recording Society is welcomed with a bear-hug. More organizations with such enterprise could be the salvation of the currently moribund classical-record business stateside (except for the production of crossover Kitsch: vide Joshua Bell playing Leonard Bernstein, or Daniel Barenboim playing tangos, or Yo-Yo Ma in Appalachia on his way to the Silk Road).

R.D. (Aug. 2002)