Mario CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO (1895-1968)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in G, Op. 46 (1927) [29:14]
Piano Concerto No. 2 in F, Op. 92 (1936-7) [31:17]
Four Dances from Love’s Labour’s Lost, Op. 167 (1953) [16:05]
Alessandro Marangoni (piano)
Malmö Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Mogrelia
rec. 23-27 May 2011, Malmö Symphony Concert Hall, Malmö, Sweden
NAXOS 8.572823 [76:36]
The beginning of the CD has a surprise in store. The back cover tells me the first piece is Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Piano Concerto No 1, in G minor. But it’s not in G minor: it’s a bubbly, frothy piece all the way through, like so many breezy puffy clouds floating overhead. The first movement has many charming touches, such as the piano’s entrance and a brief cello solo, but two-thirds of the way through I felt it had satisfied its narrative potential and could move on already. This is the story of the disc: the romanza in the first concerto didn’t need its emotionally empty cadenza or the faux drama which follows, and the ponderous beginning of the vivace (here rather non-vivant) in the second concerto heralds an eleven-minute movement in which basically nothing happens. The first concerto ends with a tarantella, but Castelnuovo-Tedesco saps it of momentum with a reflective central episode and a false-starting piano solo at 6:40 before, in the final 100 seconds, we finally get to have a little bit of fun. The finale of the second offers some harmonic spice and an appealingly exotic flute line at around 5:10, although the booklet’s claim of “bleak moods of sombre agitation” is trumped-up.
Pianist Alessandro Marangoni must be considered the foremost expert in this music: he assembled a performing edition of the second concerto and of the four dances from Love’s Labour’s Lost, based on the composer’s manuscripts. He certainly plays well throughout, and one admires his honesty in not making this music out to be more dramatic or emotionally vital than it really is. Especially in the case of the four dull Shakespeare dances - not helped by conductor Andrew Mogrelia; the gavotte and Spanish dance could be a lot more fun at a breezier pace - one also feels a little bad that he put so much effort into this. It’s fun, peppy music, with a constant smile, but I don’t know if I will want to listen to this again.
Most of the orchestra is captured well, although the first violins sound weirdly recessed. The Malmö Symphony falters slightly on occasion, lacking the polish and conviction I’ve heard from them in the past - say, in their outstanding Grieg albums. Not much else to say about this unfortunate effort other than that the cover is quite a bit more attractive than the contents.
Dull, unnecessary concertos played with debatable conviction.
see also review by Gary Higginson