An unrivalled collection of chamber music charting the course of the 20th century through the eclectic voices and eventful musical journey of an Italian-American composer.
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895–1968) may still be regarded primarily as a composer for guitar, best known through his working partnership with Andres Segovia, but Brilliant Classics has illuminated other sides to this prolific musician through first recordings and modern rediscoveries of his piano music (BC94811) and his songs, most notably his settings of Shakespeare (BC95548).
Now the focus falls on his chamber music, with these new studio recordings of suites, sonatas, tone-poems and fantasies. From the piquant miniatures of the two Signorine Op.10 to the neoclassically economical Suite 508 Op.170, all the works here abound in the bitter-sweet harmonies and soaring melodic rapture which gave a distinctive flavour to Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s music throughout his long career. Song without words is another thread to his output, first encountered here in the Tre canti all’aria aperta from 1919. Tuscan folksong and medieval troubadour tradition are spiced with Bartokian harmony in a fresh and appealing combination.
The writing for the string instruments is reliably extrovert and idiomatic, influenced by the music’s dedicatees and first performers such as Jascha Heifetz, Albert Spalding and Adila Fachiri, grandniece of Joseph Joachim. Notturno Adriatico is a tranquil, dream-like tone-picture with a tenuous hold on the repertoire, like the virtuoso flourish of Exotica: A Rhapsody of the South Seas. However, the extensive fantasy on themes from Donizetti’s La fille du regiment is a substantial rarity which deserves much wider currency. In the same tradition of the operatic fantasy is a paraphrase of Rossini’s ‘Largo al factotum’; like the two deft miniatures from a series of Greetings Cards Op.170, the paraphrase was issued in print, whereas most of the five-movement Donizetti fantasy remains unpublished. So does the Suite 508 for viola and piano, composed in 1960. With typical ingenuity, Castelnuovo-Tedesco works in the name of the different dedicatees to each of the seven movements, resulting in chromaticism on the verge of atonality at times, but reliably handled with verve and melodic prominence.
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco was one of the most successful and remarkable composers of the first half of the 20th century in Italy. His style is influenced by Neo-Classicism, vivid, brilliant, with the occasional odd dissonance, strongly rhythmical and full of catchy melodies. He fled Anti-semitism before WWO2, and settled in Hollywood where he successfully composed film music for more than 200 films.
The prolific composer is best known for his numerous works for the guitar. He wrote however in many genres. This new recording presents his complete output for violin and piano: a Sonata quasi una Fantasia, a Suite and a variety of shorter pieces: evocative, dream-like and melancholy music alternates with exciting, rhythmically driven dances.
A highly original, sophisticated voice, wonderfully performed by Mauro Tortorelli (violin) and Angela Meluso (piano): “high standard, versatility and fine musicianship of Mauro Tortorelli..warmly recommended” is what Fanfare wrote about their recording of Milhaud (BC95449).