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!


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