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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Mario CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO (1895-1968)
Les guitars bien tempérées: 24 preludi e fughe per due chitarre Op.199 (1940)
No.1 in Sol minore
No.2 in Re Maggiore
No.3 in La minore
No.4 in Mi Maggiore
No.5 in Si minore
No.6 in Fa diesis Maggiore
No.7 in Do diesis minore
No.8 in La bemolle Maggiore
No.9 in Mi bemolle minore
No.10 in Si bemolle Maggiore
No.11 in Fa minore
No.12 in Do Maggiore
No.13 in Sol Maggiore
No.14 in Re minore
No.15 in La Maggiore
No.16 in Mi minore
No.17 in Si Maggiore
No.18 in Fa diesis minore
No.19 in Do diesis Maggiore
No.20 in Sol diesis minore
No.21 in Mi bemolle Maggiore
No.22 in Si bemolle minore
No.23 in Fa Maggiore
No.24 in Do minore

Claudio Piastra (guitar)
Rec. 1992? DDD
WARNER FONIT 0927 43353-2 [2CDs: 68:23+61:15]

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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 guitar composition.

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.

Andy Daly

 


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