Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s works for guitar number
almost one hundred mainly due to his association with the great Spanish
guitarist Andrès Segovia. It was not until Segovia introduced
the composer to the legendary guitar duo of Ida Presti and Alexander
Lagoya that the composer was inspired to write music for two guitars.
Subsequently there appeared from his pen "Concerto for two guitars",
"Sonatina canonica", "Fuga elegiaca" and "Les
guitars bien tempérées".
A number of composers have written works that encompass
the full range of major and minor keys, probably Johann Sebastian Bach’s
"Well-Tempered Clavier" being the most famous. Dmitri Shostakovich
also composed a piano cycle "Preludes and Fugues" using all
the available keys, but Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco must be the only composer
to write such a work for the guitar (or to be more exact two guitars),
an instrument notorious for being "key-bound". Listening,
it soon becomes apparent that the wealth of musical invention, contrasting
moods and the variety of nuances of Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s skilful writing
are in no way hampered by the more unusual keys, not commonly used in
As already stated, this work is for two guitars. However,
this recording is by one guitarist, Claudio Piastra, playing both parts
using double tracking to produce the desired ensemble. Unfortunately,
the recording is some ten years old (this disc being a reissue) and
at that time, studio facilities not being what they are now, the process
involved recording one guitar directly, one over the other. Consequently
the results at times are a little disappointing, particularly in the
togetherness of the ensemble; No. 17 (track 5, disc 2) being an example.
More than that, the whole thing has a rather flat, sterile feel about
it, which I am sure is due to the recording technique. I suspect that
Claudio Piastra is a better guitarist than is demonstrated here; a demandingly
ambitious project has possibly not shown him at his best.
As is my usual practice of comparing, where possible,
other recordings of the same work, I listened to a radio broadcast of
some years ago. This was of the Abreu brothers playing numbers 7, 17
and 18. The Abreus display a warmth and a greater sense of rapport than
Piastra. This is only to be expected from the likes of a great duo such
as the Abreus; in no way can that naturalistic rapport be simulated
with studio technology.
The inlay notes to this disc says that this is the
first complete recording of "Les guitars bien tempérées"
but after consulting Maurice J. Summerfield’s book "The Classical
Guitar" I found the Duo Batendo on Etcetera ETC 1057 have also
made a complete recording. If this is true, it is surprising that the
producers of this disc failed to discover this considering the obvious
time and dedication invested in this project.