Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
Alberto Ginastera's dazzling new "Glosses on Themes by Pau Casals" received its world premiere by the National Symphony Orchestra Tuesday night, and the score is very likely to become the orchestral smash hit of its generation.
Based on motifs from Pablo Casals' songs, a choral work, a sardana and his beloved "Song of the Birds," the music nevertheless is unmistakably the product of Ginastera's superb art and intellect.
Two years ago this work was heard in a shorter, sketchy version for small orchestra. But as revealed Tuesday night, "Glosses" is totally new.
Ginastera is well remembered in Washington for his second and third operas, "Bomarzo" and "Beatric Cenci," which had their premieres here.
"Glosses" has been written in Ginastera's maturity and is a touching, deeply personal memorial to Casals, who like Ginastera's own forebears, was Catalan.
Surrounding Casals' chorale is the composer's mysterious writing that gives shadowy glissandos to the upper strings and startling pizzicatos to the double basses. There are wisps of sound from solo winds, and then suddenly a vast eruption, approaching violent force when one of the "spirit of the sardana," a fierce, proud processional dance, whirls across the scene.
In the finest sense, the new work is popular. Vivid rhythms mingle with sweeping harp glissandos, and raucous brass intones the dance.
Then at the heart of the work the cellos play the "Song of the Birds," that piece which Casals made a flaming symbol of his love of liberty and played for an encore one unforgettable night at the White House in 1961. "Glosses" is quite distinctly in the great line of Scheherezade and the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra in its sumptuous instrumental display.
Rostropovich and the orchestra filled it with beauty and splendor. It is a very demanding work. Repetitions on yesterday and today may hear minor rough spots overcome. Both the adagio intimo and the "Song of the Birds," which is marked "molto lento," could move even more slowly. Not because Casals played the song that way, but because what Ginastera has written needs even broader phrases.
The audience cheered the composer, conductor and orchestra wildly at the end of "Glosses."
Few compositions could follow this Ginastera without sounding somewhat eclipsed. But what Rostropovich and the orchestra produced in Respighi's Pines of Rome had no trouble holding its own. With added trumpets in the top balcony and the organ going full tilt, the ending fairly took off the roof. Don't miss it tonight.
Earlier there was a beautifully played Introduction, Aria, and Presto for strings, and a Mendelssohn Italian Symphony ideally paced in the outer movements and relaxed in the simplicity of the rest. This was the kind of night people who were there recall Stokowski, Koussevitzky and Reiner.