March 2007

Ginastera - Panambí; Estancia (complete ballet scores)
London Symphony Orchestra, Gisčle Ben-Dor conducting
Naxos 8.557582
Format: CD
Original released: 1999
Reissue released: 2006

by Richard Freed

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

Naxos has been imaginative enough to snap up and recirculate Gerard Schwarz’s Seattle recordings of 20th-century American works, originally on Delos, and Robert Craft’s recent Schoenberg and Stravinsky recordings, originally on Koch. This single CD, restoring material issued in 1999 on the Conifer label (which had been acquired by BMG about then) is no less valuable, and in fact packs more of a sense of discovery and sheer excitement. The repertory is significant, the performances are terrific, and so is the sound quality. What is more surprising than its welcome reappearance is that BMG failed to hold on to it in the first place.

I have not heard Gisčle Ben-Dor in any of the so-called standard repertory, but her recorded performances of music of such composers as Ginastera and Revueltas on Koch, with the LSO, the Israel Chamber Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra and her own Santa Barbara SO, have been knockouts. This particular pairing gives us both of these substantial and fascinating ballet scores in their entirety -- nearly 40 minutes for Panambí, 33 minutes for Estancia -- instead of the very brief concert suites usually offered. This provides an utterly different impression, in respect to proportion, dramatic flow and the young Ginastera’s all-round imaginativeness and sheer communicative power.

There is no competing or alternative version of this pairing, but even if there were a dozen this one would still be irresistible. Since the substantial original annotation is included (the sung and spoken texts for Estancia are not, but are easily accessed on the Naxos website), the value of this package has not diminished; only its price has, and that’s yet another reason to be thankful it was Naxos that made this praiseworthy rescue.