"Ginastera" immediately says musician, but a first name is required to specify if Alberto, the late Argentine composer, or his widow, Aurora Natola, the renowned cellist, is the subject for discussion. Both were heard in recital Friday night at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, where Aurora Natola Ginastera paid tribute to Alberto with a stunning performance of his Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 49, written for and premiered by her in 1979.
Ginastera, who studied with Pablo Casals, shares his robust approach to the instrument. Never a bashful player, she favors heavy vibrato and pushes the friction level of bow on strings to the limit, creating an immense sound that she can quickly drop to a whisper. The Op. 49 sonata, which exploits almost every available stretch of string real estate, erupted at the outset as Ginastera and her fine accompanist Jonathan Feldman established a frantic finale-like pace, interrupted by colorful cello strumming and tremolo-harmonics. Ginastera's sepulchral tone in the second movement was awesome, while the jittery quality she brought to the ensuing movement involved a spectacle of bow and left-hand technique.
Elsewhere, Ginastera explored impressionistic and folk music styles in works such as Debussy's Sonata No. 1, Granados's Intermezzo from "Goyescas" and "Suite populaire espagnole" by Falla, whose folk-song arrangements called for lullaby tenderness and flamenco exuberance. The one disappointment was the world premiere of Jacques Guyonnet's "Un soupir pour Aurore" ("A Sigh for Aurora"), composed, obviously, for Ginastera. On first hearing, the piece seemed like little more than a myriad of ideas in search of some meaningful context. Nothing much happened to challenge or inspire her. Consequently, "A Sigh for Aurora" was a yawn for the audience.