Ginastera’s Milonga: a rare, beautiful piece, now available in the US

Ginastera's Milonga. Published by Melos, Argentina
First page of Ginastera's Milonga. Published by Melos, Argentina

I bet you don’t know this piece by this major Latin American composer. Milonga is an arrangement, made by Ginstera himself, of his song Canción al Arbol del Olvido (Song to the Tree of Forgetfulness). Ginastera wrote this original song, with verses of Silva Valdes, in 1938, as his Opus 3. I’m not sure when he arranged it for piano solo – but we pianists are surely thankful that he did! It is a delicate, enchanting short piece based on the slow Milonga genre, a type of song attributed to the gaucho (Argentine cowboy), who used to sing it while accompanying himself on the guitar. The original song became a quick hit in Argentina, and several folk singers adopted it – see for instance this version by the Chilean activist/singer Victor Jara.

The charming lyrics of the original song describe the story of a gaucho who wanted to forget an unrequited love. He hears about a magical tree – those who fall asleep under it forget their troubles when they wake up. He goes there, falls asleep, but when he wakes up he realizes with bittersweet disappointment that he still remembers her. What happened? Instead of forgetting her, he “forgot to forget her.”

The piano arrangement follows the song almost verbatim. From a pedagogical point of view it is a great piece to work out cross-rhythms: the left hand keeps a constant rhythm based on 16th notes, while the right hand uses 8th note triplets pervasively. Quite a challenge for an intermediate student!

Listen to my version of Milonga:

Until recently it was very difficult to obtain this piece, as it was only available in Argentina. I recently found out that Elkin Music has it in their catalog, along with a few other pieces by Ginastera (Malambo and Tres Piezas) that were also published by Melos/Ricordi Argentina. You can order these pieces here.

Happy playing!


Rondo on Argentine Children’s Folk Tunes

Avignon Bridge. From

Alberto Ginastera wrote his “Rondó sobre temas infantiles argentinos” (Rondo on Argentine Children’s Folk Tunes) in 1947. It is his opus 19, and his last “non-Sonata” piano solo piece. It has become one of his most often-taught  pieces at the intermediate level in the US, along with some of his American Preludes op. 12 and the Danza de la Moza Donosa op. 2. The Rondo is dedicated to his two children, Georgina and Alex. I believe Ginastera had in mind a young performer. While  his strong stylistic trademarks can still be found  in this piece, the Rondo is far removed from the relentless and often taxing energy of his fast toccata-like pieces (e.g. Danza del Gaucho Matrero, or the Coda of his Creole Dances). This charming and mischievous 3-minute  piece has a lot of humor and lightness to it  (almost alla Poulenc), a trait not often found in Ginastera’s music, which tends to be intense and concentrated.

As far as I can tell Ginastera used four children tunes in this Rondo: Sobre el puente de avignon (On the bridge of Avignon – see picture of this French bridge to the left) for the refrain, Palomita ingrata (Ungrateful dove), Yo no soy buenamoza (I’m not a good-looking girl) and a snippet of En coche va una niña (A girl is riding a carriage) for the episodes. On the bridge of Avignon is a well-known tune not only in Argentina, but in the rest of Latin America. You can see and hear performances of Palomita ingrata and En coche va un niña by the Argentine children author and musician Luis Pescetti, who currently lives in Mexico.

To find out exactly where these tunes start in the piece, watch my YouTube performance of the Rondo:

(Apologies for the LH misreading in 0:15)

From a pedagogical point of view, the Rondo is a great teaching piece. Many hispanic students in the US will recognize these tunes. The piece contains many contrasting moods. With its beautifully modal harmony, brilliant scalar passage work and the exciting bi-tonal closing, it works very well for recitals and competitions.

The Rondo is published by Boosey and Hawkes. Purchase this piece with a discount at

look inside
Rondo on Argentine Children’s Folk Tunes
Composed by Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983). For Piano (Piano). BH Piano. 8 pages. Boosey & Hawkes #M051281244. Published by Boosey & Hawkes (HL.48002613).