In 1941 on a tour of South America with the American Ballet Caravan, Lincoln Kirstein commissioned a ballet from Alberto Ginastera with an Argentine subject. The composer responded with the one-act Estancia.
Choosing a typical Argentine estancia (a cattle ranch on the pampas) as his setting, Ginastera taps into the 'gauchesco' literary tradition, quoting from the epic poem Martin Fierro in numbers sung by a baritone. Gauceschos were Argentine cowboys who worked the cattle, and Ginastera quickly became the musical voice of their tradition.
In the event the American Ballet Caravan folded in 1942 and the ballet remained unperformed until 1952. However, Ginastera arranged four dances into a suite that consolidated his position as the leading musical interpreter of Argentine cultural life. It was first performed in Buenos Aries on 12 May 1943.
Depicting the harsh life on the pampas, the angry rhythms of Los trabajadores agricolas (The Land Workers) and Los peones de hacienda (The Cattle Men) are contrasted with the serenity of the Danza del trigo (Wheat Dance). The Danza final (Final Dance) is in the style of a Malambo, a lively dance form associated with the gauchescos.
Alberto Ginastera occupied a leading position in the musical world of Argentina, where he exercised a strong influence over a younger generation of composers.
He founded the centre for Advanced Musical Studies in Buenos Aires and became its director in 1963.
He later spent much time in Europe, settling in Geneva.
His early music drew on native gaucho and Indian music, and even though he subsequently embraced modernist techniques his music retained its exuberance and rhythmic excitement.
He composed three operas that aroused controversy for their sexuality and violence, ballet scores, concertos for violin, harp, cello and piano, and a considerable amount of vocal and chamber music.