New Classical Tracks: Evocations of Argentinaby Julie Amacher, Minnesota Public Radio
Albert Ginastera is Argentina's most famous composer, but much of his music is rarely played. Now, his complete works for cello and piano, evoking the songs and landscape of his native country, have been recorded by cellist Mark Kosower.
St. Paul, Minn. — Mark Kosower splits his career between two professional pursuits. For 22 weeks out of the year he's principal cellist with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra in Germany. The rest of the time he's an active touring soloist and recording artist.
The two types of playing complement one another, and allow Kosower to explore a broader range of repertoire. On this recent release he and his wife, pianist Jee-Won Oh, explore the complete cello music of one of the most important South American composers of the 20th century, Alberto Ginastera.
Mark Kosower, 31, is an award-winning cellist who is quickly emerging as one of the top cellists of his generation. Not bad for a boy whose studies began at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire with his father.
From Eau Claire, Kosower moved on to Bloomington, Ind., to study with Janos Starker, and then it was on to Juillard. Kosower met his wife, Jee-Won Oh at Indiana University, where she served as a studio pianist for Starker.
As a cellist, Kosower is gaining attention for his impeccable technique, his warm, rich tone, and his unusual choice of repertoire. Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera is an interesting case.
"He's famous and everyone knows his name, yet a lot of his music isn't heard very often," said Kosower.
Kosower and Jee-Won Oh remedy that on this recording, by featuring all of Ginastera's original works for cello, as well as Kosower's own arrangement of Ginastera's, "Cinco Canciones Populares Argentinas" ("Five Argentine Folksongs") for cello and piano. The "Cinco Canciones Populares Argentinas" is a collection of five songs and dances derived from folk music and poetry, and written originally for voice and piano.
The first movement is set in triple meter, with an infectious melody that deserves more than just one minute.
The second movement is a song of unrequited love titled "Triste." To portray the feelings of hopelessness, Ginastera creates wide open spaces with very sparse scoring. In his arrangement, Kosower makes use of the cello's full register to express this tearful story.
Kosower's gentle phrasing in the third movement, "Zamba," makes the melody of this scarf dance even lovelier.
The final movement in this set of Argentine songs is a rowdy cat-dance that originated from Spain. Ginastera's rich, sometimes dissonant harmonies jump off the page, thanks to the playful interaction between the performers.
Ginastera married his second wife, Argentine cellist Aurora Natola in 1971. As might be expected, Natola was the catalyst for Ginastera's cello works, including his sonata, which appears on this recording.
The "Pampeano No. 2," which opens this new release, was also dedicated to her before they were married, and she was the first to perform it in 1950.
Ginastera said each time he crossed the vast plain in south-central South America known as the pampas, he felt a change of spirit. Ginastera captures those many moods in the Pampeano No. 2.
The mysterious atmosphere of the middle section is abruptly interrupted with a startling finale depicting galloping gauchos on horseback. Kosower improvises one last cello cadenza before the fiery conclusion.
On this recording, Mark Kosower plays a cello made in 1701 by David Tecchler. Kosower likes working with vintage instruments because they offer a broader palette of color and sound.
He puts this instrument to the test on this complete collection of cello and piano music by Alberto Ginastera. The added sparkle is provided by Kosower's musical partner (and life partner), pianist Jee-Won Oh.
Once you've absorbed this recording which features music off the beaten path, you may also want to check out their new collection of Hungarian music for cello and piano, the second of two new releases from this dynamic duo.