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Violin Concerto No. 3, Op. 102 (1939-40) [26:31]
String Trio for violin, viola and cello, Op. 147 (1950) [18:56]
Sonata for Violin and Cello, Op. 148 (1950) [32:40]
Davide Alogna (violin)
Fiorenzo Pascalucci (piano)
Roberto Trainini (cello)
Federico Stassi (viola)
rec. 2018, Galleria Alberoni, Piacenza, Italy (concerto); Basilica S. Vincenzo, Cantù (Como) Italy.
NAXOS 8.574003 [77:34]

This disc makes a logical companion to three other Naxos discs: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 (review review), Cello Concerto (review review) and Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 (review review). In fact, given this label's existing coverage including the two Shakespeare overture volumes (review and review) and an entry in the Naxos Milken Archive series, Naxos can legitimately lay claim to being the official home of Castelnuovo-Tedesco's orchestral and other music.

These three works which, despite one title, are from the composer's array of chamber works, date from after Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s enforced move from success in Italy to a soon-welcoming USA. There he numbered among his pupils some world class names including André Previn, Henry Mancini, Jerry Goldsmith, Nelson Riddle, Elmer Bernstein and John Williams.

Like the Second Concerto I Profeti (which is for violin and orchestra) this Third Concerto (actually intended for violin and piano) was composed for Heifetz. It is in three movements: 1. Drammatico; 2. Lento - Grave e triste; 3 Molto moderato (quasi un'Introduzione). It's a highly coloured work with plenty to like and comment upon. The style is bright, passionate, luscious and hyper-dramatic with some oriental hints in the first movement and a resemblance, which the Second Concerto also bears, to Korngold. The central Lento has both restraint and dignity which is foreshadowed in the composer's marking, Grave e triste. The finale has nobility, a shade or two of Bach, a hint of Southern cotton-fields, cool virtuosity, some engaging restraint and finally an affirmative sense of journey's end. The composer wrote of the work:-

‘What I was trying to convey in this work were my own recent experiences: the first (violent and dramatic) movement evokes the pain and upheaval of being forced to leave my native country—the sudden blow that had struck my life; the second is a tender and melancholy “farewell to the cypresses” and to the Tuscan landscape more generally … while the third recalls my arrival in New York … the foggy morning, the skyscrapers coming into view, a sudden burst of light, happy little tunes (on the radio), and, finally (in a contemplative cadenza), a solitary nun, praying on the deck of the ship.’

Castelnuovo-Tedesco's previous two violin concertos were the Concerto italiano, 1924, and I profeti, 1931. The 1931 work was recorded by Heifetz, and later by Perlman and José Miguel Cueto.

The other two works here are a product of the composer having settled in Beverly Hills and of his friendship with another member of the Hollywood musical colony, violinist Bernard Sinsheimer (1870–1947). The String Trio for violin, viola and cello, Op. 147 (1950) is in three movements: I. Allegretto grazioso; II. Nenia: Molto moderato; and III Vivace (Ritmico e balzante). This work has far less of the self-advertising virtuoso about it. Its moods are the stuff of sincerity and are devoid of overt showmanship even in the scudding Vivace which yet is far from bloodless.

The Beverley Hills connection accounts for Castelnuovo-Tedesco having written between 1945 and 1950, the sonatas for Violin and Viola, Op. 127 (1945), for Viola and Cello, Op. 144 and for Violin and Cello, Op. 148 (both 1950). The Sonata for Violin and Cello, Op. 148 (1950) has four movements I. Lento misterioso; II. Cavatina: Andante; III. Scherzo: Mosso, con spirito - Alla Serenata; IV. Rhapsody: Introduzione (Liberamente - quasi improvvisando). In the Lento misterioso it continues the almost Bach-like reserve of the Trio. Its Cavatina sports an irresistible cantabile (put this alongside the Bax First String Quartet). Equally to the point is the delicate 'terpsichore' of the Scherzo and the final vivacious Italianate Rhapsody with a generous helping of tarantella writing. The two middle movements stand out as particularly glorious music-making.

Angelo Gilardino provides the notes for this release of three sun-soaked works in premiere recordings which have a warm and virile sound. These performances meet and capitalise upon the beckoning challenges of these scores.

Rob Barnett


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