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Carlos Guastavino (1912-2000), born in Santa Fe, Argentina, was one of the foremost Argentine creators of the 20th century. His production totals more than 200 works, most of it dedicated to the piano and to the voice. An accomplished pianist with an intense gift for melody, Guastavino always wrote effectively for the piano, mastering not only its brilliant and virtuoso aspect, but also the intimate and poetic side of this instrument. His style, always tonal and lusciously romantic, is fully based on Argentine folk music. He is considered one of the greatest Argentine vocal music composers of all times. His beautifully crafted songs unfailingly cause a deep impression in audiences everywhere, and are quickly becoming staples of the Spanish-language vocal repertoire. His recent death in October 2000 has been a great loss to the music of his country.

Biography

Born in 1912 in Santa Fe province, Argentina, Carlos Guastavino is perhaps the greatest exponent of Argentine Romantic nationalism. His musical style, firmly rooted in the late nineteenth century Romantic tradition, has remained completely removed from the modern musical milieu of Argentina --his stylistic isolation will be readily evident by comparing Guastavino's works to those of Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983), almost his exact contemporary. In fact, Guastavino's isolation from the Modern and avant-garde movements of his country, and his success at creating an attractive national music using a Romantic language, made him a model to the 1960's generation of Argentine popular and folk music authors, who often applied Guastavino's innovations to their own music.

Guastavino studied music in Santa Fe with Esperanza Lothringer and Dominga Iaffei, and in Buenos Aires with Athos Palma. A talented pianist, he performed his piano works in London in 1947, 1948, and 1949, invited by the BBC, and as a recipient of a scholarship from the British Council. During these years, the BBC Symphony Orchestra premiered the orchestral version of his Tres Romances Argentinos, under the baton of Walter Goehs. Later, in 1956, Guastavino toured the USSR and China, performing his pieces for voice and piano.

Carlos Guastavino's style shows clear affinity to the style and ideas of the nineteenth century Argentine nationalistic composers Alberto Williams, Francisco Hargreaves, Eduardo García Mansilla and Julián Aguirre. The affinity with Aguirre's delicate and intimate manner is especially evident. Like Aguirre's, Guastavino's treatment of folk themes never feels forced, but is always natural. Thus, the popular spirit of the original folk melodies and rhythms always remains untouched and fresh, even at moments of complex rhythmic, harmonic or contrapuntal elaboration.

Guastavino has composed a large number of works for the voice and for the piano: more than a hundred and fifty songs for voice and piano, numerous piano solo pieces, choral works, school songs, and chamber music. He has set to music poems by Rafael Alberty, Leon Benaros, Hamlet Lima Quintana, Atahualpa Yupanqui, Pablo Neruda, Gabriela Mistral, and Jorge Luis Borges among others, including his own, and anonymous texts. His works for orchestra include Divertissement; fue una vez..., commissioned by Colonel de Basil for his original Ballet Russe, and premiered at the Teatro Colón, in Buenos Aires, in 1942; and Suite Argentina --"Gato," "Malambo," "Se equivocó la paloma," and "Zamba"--, which was performed in London, Paris, Barcelona, and Havana by the Ballet Español of Isabel Lopez. He has also written three Sonatas for guitar.

It is not uncommon to find transcriptions of Guastavino's pieces, made by the composer himself. These CDs include transcriptions of the songs Pueblito mi Pueblo, and El Sampedrino, and of the two-piano piece "Las Niñas." Other transcriptions of pieces originally written for piano solo are: Bailecito, transcribed for two pianos and for guitar; Gato, for two pianos and for orchestra --as part of the Suite Argentina*--; the Cantilenas Nos. 1 and 6 for violin and piano, and for cello and piano respectively; and the Cantilenas Nos. 1, 4, 8, 9, and 10, for guitar.

Carlos Guastavino has received important awards and recognitions throughout his life, such as the Municipal Prize from the city of Buenos Aires for his chamber songs, a prize from the Justice Ministry of Argentina, Prize of the Cultural Commission of Santa Fe province for his songs, "Vosotras" magazine Prize for his Canción de Navidad, and a Prize from the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Music Council as a recognition of his outstanding creative activity.

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Fundación Ostinato has produced a recording of the Complete Works for Piano by Calos Guastavino in 3 CDs. For information click on "CDs" on the left.

Upcoming Guastavino releases (more details under "Upcoming Projects"):

  • Works for choir and piano

For performance engagements click on "About Us"