A Debate on Ginastera’s American Preludes Numbers 1 and 2 – which came first?

My new edition of Ginastera's American Preludes
My new edition of Ginastera’s American Preludes

In 2016 I had the privilege of preparing a new edition of Alberto Ginastera’s Doce Preludios Americanos Op. 12 (Twelve American Preludes) for piano, at the invitation of Carl Fischer Publishing, the US publishing house that first published this work in 1946. This edition includes my own recording of the whole piece. In order to prepare this new edition I consulted many sources, including the correspondence between Ginastera and the people at Carl Fischer in 1945 and 1946, and the original manuscripts of the work in the Paul Sacher Archives in Switzerland.

Ginastera’s American Preludes were written and premiered in 1944 in Buenos Aires. Raul Spivak, a pianist and friend of Ginastera’s, was in charge of giving the first performance during one of Asociación Wagneriana’s concerts.  The composer later sent the manuscript to Fischer in New York at the publisher’s request, for consideration. The editor at Fischer quickly accepted the manuscript for publication. The work was published in early 1946, during the composer’s first visit to the US.

The American Preludes are amazing pieces not only because of their experimental yet effective style, but also because they span a large range of difficulty, from mid intermediate to advanced. Therefore they have been used frequently by teachers to introduce 20th century idioms in a user-friendly and effective manner. Among the most often performed are numbers 3 and 6, “Danza Criolla” (Creole Dance) and “Homenaje a Roberto García Morillo” (Tribute to Roberto García Morillo). I will write about these and other movements  in a later post.

Today I want to introduce the first two preludes: “Triste” (originally wrongly translated as “Sadness”) and “Para los Acentos” (Accents). If you know these pieces you might be thinking “wait a minute… you have the incorrect order — Accents is supposed to be first, and Triste second!). Well, you are partially right. The 1946 edition did feature Accents first and Triste second, but not the original manuscript. In fact when the work was premiered in 1944, Triste was the first piece. And later on, even after the publication of the piece, this order (with Triste first) was presented in a performance at Tanglewood in the summer if 1946, with Ginastera in attendance. To me, this is evidence that the composer preferred this order.

Why, oh why, you may ask, did the 1946 edition reverse the order of these two pieces, and was this new order approved by the composer? I haven’t found any evidence that the composer approved this order. What I did find in Fischer’s archives is an internal memo that seems to indicate that the order was reversed… wait for it… to avoid a bad page turn!!!

Music has a life of its own, and the history of a piece would often determine the way a piece is played, even if the historically-accepted way  contradicts the composer’s intentions. True. So, if you preferred to adhere to the modified order with Triste second, fine by me. The piece has a history of being played this way. However, I truly enjoy playing it in the original order; I really think it works better! Ginastera had been experimenting with slow introductions — you can see this in his 1941 Malambo for piano, and his Suite of Creole Dances Op. 15 and some other examples. Triste may very well act as one of those slow openings.

Here’s my performance of the opening movements. You judge for yourself. In the meantime, feel free to order your copy of my new edition, which includes a substantial preface with a history of the piece and pedagogical suggestions.


Cover tiny file
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12 American Preludes -‘Doce Preludios Americanos’
Composed by Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983). 20th Century. Collection. With standard notation, fingerings and introductory text. 23 pages. Carl Fischer #O005471. Published by Carl Fischer (CF.O5471).


Catherine Rollin’s Dancing on the Keys series: world rhythms that motivate

19760336I’ve personally witnessed the desire of some teen students to learn “Spanish” pieces (“Spanish” in their lingo meaning from Spain OR Latin America), or pieces that sound exotic. While there are many “authentic” pieces by Latin American composers that may be appropriate, I believe, however, that those of us who teach in the US shouldn’t neglect compositions by so-called “pedagogical” composers from the US. After all, these composers teach American kids, and they know what they like! The three volumes of Rollin’s Dancing on the Keys contain pieces from early to late intermediate that utilize dance rhythms from different cultural traditions, including some pieces that resemble tangos, sambas, rhumbas and cha-chas.

A purist might say that many (or most) of these pieces are stereotypical rendition “alla Hollywood” and not authentic enough. Granted, this is partly true with Rollin’s pieces and many other composers (even some of those “sacred” composers like Mozart or Liszt often wrote stereotypical pieces, after all!) I tend to be a bit more pragmatic, especially after teaching American teens for many years. You adapt to the culture you are teaching in, or you “disappear”! These pieces ARE well written, they ARE colorful, and they ARE motivating to the kind of students we encounter often. So, why not?

It’s late and I don’t have the time to sit down and video record some of the pieces. I promise to do a posting with 3 or 4 examples later this week. In the meantime you may enjoy Gail Kowalchyk’s introduction to two of the pieces in volume 3:

These books are published by Alfred. Click the link below to browse through some of the pages.

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Dancing on the Keys, Book 1
(10 Early Intermediate Piano Solos in Dance Styles). Composed by Catherine Rollin. For Piano. Piano Collection; Piano Supplemental. Early Intermediate. Book. 24 pages. Published by Alfred Music (AP.28287).
look inside
Dancing on the Keys, Book 2
(7 Intermediate Piano Solos in Dance Styles). Composed by Catherine Rollin. For Piano. Piano Collection; Piano Supplemental. Intermediate. Book. 24 pages. Published by Alfred Music (AP.28288).
look inside
Dancing on the Keys, Book 3
(5 Late Intermediate Piano Solos in Dance Styles). Composed by Catherine Rollin. For Piano. Book; Piano Collection; Piano Supplemental. Late Intermediate. 24 pages. Published by Alfred Music (AP.39360).

Pieces with Latin “flavor” by American pedagogical composers

file000128922933In upcoming posts I plan to write specifically about some of these pieces. In the meantime, here is a list worth exploring. They are all in the early to late intermediate range. They will help you bring Latin and Spanish moods to your studio!

Fuego de la Pasión. Wynn-Anne Rossi
Summer Latin. Melody Bober
Sassy Samba. Mary Rejino
Tangy Tango. Wendy Stevens
El Zapateado. Dennis Alexander
Danza Española. Bruce Berr
The Matador. Catherine Rollin
La Serenata. Dennis Alexander
Alma del Tango. Wynn-Anne Rossi
Fandango. Jeno Takacs
Fiesta Cha Cha. Christopher Goldston
Fuego de la Pasión. Wynne-Anne Rossi
Noche del Gitano. Ted Cooper
Bee Cha Cha. Fred Kern
Tantalizing Tango. Catherine Rollin
Cafe cha-cha. Wynn-Anne Rossi
Spanish Gypsies. William Gillock
Danza Cubana. Catherine Rollin
Tango in C Minor. Martin Kutnowski
Tango Romántico. Timothy Brown