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Mario CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO (1895 - 1968)
Music for Two Guitars - Volume 1
Sonatina Canonica, op.196 (1961) [9:52]
Les Guitares Bien Tempérées (The Well Tempered Guitars): 24 Preludes and Fugues for two guitars, op.199 (1962), numbers 1 - 12 [56:50]
Brazil Guitar Duo (Joao Luiz and Douglas Lora)
rec. 27 - 30 June 2007, St John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada. DDD
NAXOS 8.570778 [66:48]

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Mario CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO (1895 - 1968)
Music for Two Guitars - Volume 2
Fuga elegiaca (1967) [4:33]
Les Guitares Bien Tempérées (The Well Tempered Guitars): 24 Preludes and Fugues for two guitars, op.199, numbers 13 - 24 [49:43]
Brazil Guitar Duo (Joao Luiz and Douglas Lora)
rec. 27 - 30 June 2007, St John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada. DDD
NAXOS 8.570779 [54:16]
Experience Classicsonline

Wasn’t it Paganini who said something like there was only one thing worse than one guitar and that was two guitars? As I am of a similar opinion you can imagine how my heat sank upon receiving these CDs. I have to admit that two hours of pleasant music for two guitars is a bit daunting but they’re here now and here I go.

Born in Florence, Castelnuovo-Tedesco studied with Pizzetti and was helped in his early career by Alfredo Casella. He met Segovia in 1932 and this inspired him to write his 1st Guitar Concerto, subsequently he wrote nearly 100 works for the instrument. He left Italy in 1939, just before the outbreak of war, and found himself, through the good offices of Jascha Heifetz, for whom he had written his 2nd Violin Concerto in 1931, in Hollywood with a contract from Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer where, over the next fifteen years he wrote over 200 scores. He was also an influential teacher and among his pupils are Jerry Goldsmith, Louis Ballard and John Williams. Castelnuovo-Tedesco is probably best remembered today for his guitar music, especially that 1st Concerto, which has received many recordings, the solo guitar music and a handful of Shakespeare overtures. So now let’s start at the beginning of these disks.

The Sonatina Canonica is a pleasant miniature, which fills the time. It’s delightful but without depth. But what else would you want from such a piece? After a short time you don’t really notice that you’re listening to canonic writing, and the mind can simply enjoy the interplay between the instruments.

Fuga elegiaca was one of the composer’s final works, and it is in two parts - Prelude and Fugue. The Prelude is probably the most sheerly joyous music on both CDs; it’s a roller-coaster ride and sets the scene for a more solemn, but not too much so, fugue. This is a delight. In a way, I wish that there could have been more music like this here.

Les Guitares Bien Tempérées is a much more serious work, by which I mean that it is not light in the way that the Sonatina is light. These pieces are not primarily for entertainment, but there is much music here which is truly enjoyable. I would never have thought that it was possible to get so much variety from two guitars. Castelnuovo-Tedesco fills his pieces with every emotion imaginable, from pathos to, almost, belly laugh (is that an emotion?) There are light and breezy pieces, serious inventions, dance type pieces - very holiday advertisement time - and all this wide variety of invention adds up to a very satisfying and pleasurable whole.

I don’t know if you could sit through both CDs in one sitting - I must admit that I couldn’t - but if you’re into the guitar, then you’ll lap up every minute of these discs.

Bob Briggs

see also review of Volume 2 by Nick Barnard



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