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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.