Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco settled in California
in the 1940s. Like many another musician cast adrift by the
fascism that held sway in Europe from the 1930s to the mid-1940s
he found a niche in the artistic life of the States. Hollywood
embraced his music for films although none of the great films
featured his work – he did however score several of the Lassie
films. He moved in the same stratosphere as Heifetz and Piatigorsky;
indeed the former commissioned his The Prophets Violin
Concerto (No. 2 of 3) and then went on to record it (RCA);
as did Perlman.
Among the operas, concertos, oratorios
and solo piano music (Naxos,
Somm SOMMCD 032) there are two guitar concertos, a serenade
for guitar and orchestra, a concerto for two guitars and orchestra
and many pieces of chamber music involving the instrument.
The first concerto was written partly in Mussolini's Italy
and partly in America. If the middle of the three movements
of the op. 99 First Concerto sometimes drifts close
to Tatiana's Letter Song it is delectable sentimental stuff.
The flanking movements are sanguine and proud. They will certainly
appeal to anyone who likes Rodrigo's Aranjuez. It's
a lovely concerto and well worth tracking down in this very
generously timed disc. I hope there is a volume 2 with the
Second Concerto, the Serenade and the Concerto for two guitars.
suggests a relaxed saunter along the corniche - a summer evening
with the swallows of the title diving and soaring. It's a
virtuoso piece as is the eager and bustling La Primavera.
The Platero suggests a delicate spray of lilies.
The Rondo has some of the aristocratic elegance of
the finale of the op. 99 concerto. The three movement op.
133 Suite is a work of beguiling emotional suggestion.
This enchanting disc ends with the three movement op. 143
Guitar Quintet. The writing is full of interest with some
incidental echoes of Ravel and of Russian nationalism. Again
it is cheerful, subtly allusive, dynamic, poetic, playful
and at times sweetly eerie. Unlike the much younger Brouwer
this music has no truck with dissonance. Its milieu is impressionistic
poetry. The string quartet writing is most inventive and by
no means a dull stooge to the guitar.
After you have rifled Rodrigo's guitar treasury
you must try this. This composer is no Rodrigo epigone but
his music shares the Spanish composer’s mood and gift for
beguiling invention. You can add this composer's name to that
of Manuel Ponce as someone whose guitar music needs to be
explored. By the way, do not overlook Ponce's Concerto
del Sur for guitar and orchestra. Like so much else from
that era including these works by Castelnuovo-Tedesco - it
was written for Segovia – recorded by him and also by Alfredo
Moreno with Enrique Batiz.
These recordings were originally issued in
2004 on MusicMasters. I hope that there is more to come and
if not that Nimbus might find funding for a collection of
this composer's concertante works for guitar. It's that good.