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Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra Op.99 (1939) [20:18]
Golondrinas (1940s) [4:48]
La Primavera (1940s) [1:51]
Platero en el Cielo de Moguer (1940s) [5:00]
Rondo Op.129 (1946) [7:35]
Suite Op.133 (1947) [16:17]
Quintet for Guitar and Strings Op.143 (1951) [23:08]
Eliot Fisk (guitar)
Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra/Richard Kapp (op. 99)
The Shanghai String Quartet (op. 143)
rec. no dates or locations given but first issued by MusicMasters in 2004
NIMBUS NI 2536 [78:58]

Experience Classicsonline

The review disc is a re-release of music recorded by Eliot Fisk in 2004. This all Castelnuovo-Tedesco programme serves as be a testimony. For the uninitiated it proves just how fine a composer for guitar he was. For the familiar it is a reminder that few modern-day composers of guitar music equal the quality of his compositions.

Close collaboration between Andrés Segovia and Castelnuovo-Tedesco produced some gems of the guitar repertory which at that time was rather lacking in original works of substance. One of his best known and most revered works is Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra, Op 99. Those familiar with both this composition and the Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquin Rodrigo, could be forgiven for suggesting that aspects of each reminds one of the other. Written when Castelnuovo-Tedesco was fleeing for his life from Mussolini-dominated Italy, the slow movement reflects a lyrical nostalgia. At a time when Joaquin Rodrigo had just lost an infant, he was also penning his famous guitar concerto. The slow movement reflects a similar lyrical nostalgia and is purported to be symbolic of his prayers and exchange with deity during this period of grief.

For Castelnuovo-Tedesco it was, in some ways, unfortunate that on arrival in his new home California, U.S.A. his prodigious talents as a composer of fine music were subjected to more commercial endeavours, such as film music, so that he could survive financially. Henry Mancini, Andre Previn and John Williams were all strongly influenced by Castelnuovo-Tedesco. Of him cataloguer Nick Rossi said: 'He was not only the kindest and most generous person I ever met, but also the most brilliant'

Eliot Fisk enjoys a high profile among aficionados of the guitar, particularly in relation to his close association with Andrés Segovia, and adoration of the Maestro. After Segovia's death a number of his original compositions for guitar were discovered. The Maestro's wife gave Fisk exclusive rights for the first recording and performance of these works. Fisk's DVD, The Segovia Style, is dedicated to analysis and emulation of the style that made Segovia the world's most famous guitarist.

Fisk is Professor of Guitar at the Universität Mozarteum in Salzburg where he teaches in five different languages. He also teaches at the New England Conservatory in Boston and is married to the acclaimed guitarist Zaira Meneses; they spend their time between Boston, Salzburg and Granada, Spain.

In the hands of Eliot Fisk the guitar becomes an instrument of attack, cut and thrust. While he manages to pierce all the notes, parrying on the part of the music results in it evading him most of the time. There is a propensity in recordings by Fisk for the music to suffer significantly because flamboyant technical rhetoric takes precedence, and this disc is no exception. Fortunately in the concerto and ensemble music there are skilled stringed-instrument players who very capably compensate by reminding us of how the score should sound.

In the solo music Fisk occasionally finds a scabbard, but his preoccupation with attack, loud, hard and fast results in bass-string buzzing that also detracts from the performance. Together with copious lashings of 'Segoviaisms' the formula does not augur well for overall enjoyment of the performance.

This is an interesting and enjoyable collection of music from one of the most important modern composers for the guitar. Unfortunately the standard of guitar playing does not always do justice to the music.

Zane Turner 

See also review by Rob Barnett


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