Mario Castelnuevo-tedesco: Guitar Works / Eliot Fisk

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Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco settled in California in the 1940s. Like many another musician cast adrift by the fascism that held sway in Europe from the 1930s to the mid-1940s he found a niche in the artistic life of the States. Hollywood embraced his music for films although none of the great films featured his work – he did however score several of the Lassie films. He moved in the same stratosphere as Heifetz and Piatigorsky; indeed the former commissioned his The Prophets Violin Concerto (No. 2 of 3) and then went on to record it (RCA); as did Perlman.

Among the operas, concertos, oratorios and solo piano music (Naxos, Somm SOMMCD 032) there are two guitar concertos, a serenade for guitar and orchestra, a concerto for two guitars and orchestra and many pieces of chamber music involving the instrument. The first concerto was written partly in Mussolini's Italy and partly in America. If the middle of the three movements of the op. 99 First Concerto sometimes drifts close to Tatiana's Letter Song it is delectable sentimental stuff. The flanking movements are sanguine and proud. They will certainly appeal to anyone who likes Rodrigo's Aranjuez. It's a lovely concerto and well worth tracking down in this very generously timed disc. I hope there is a volume 2 with the Second Concerto, the Serenade and the Concerto for two guitars.

Golondrinas (Swallows) suggests a relaxed saunter along the corniche - a summer evening with the swallows of the title diving and soaring. It's a virtuoso piece as is the eager and bustling La Primavera. The Platero suggests a delicate spray of lilies. The Rondo has some of the aristocratic elegance of the finale of the op. 99 concerto. The three movement op. 133 Suite is a work of beguiling emotional suggestion. This enchanting disc ends with the three movement op. 143 Guitar Quintet. The writing is full of interest with some incidental echoes of Ravel and of Russian nationalism. Again it is cheerful, subtly allusive, dynamic, poetic, playful and at times sweetly eerie. Unlike the much younger Brouwer this music has no truck with dissonance. Its milieu is impressionistic poetry. The string quartet writing is most inventive and by no means a dull stooge to the guitar.

After you have rifled Rodrigo's guitar treasury you must try this. This composer is no Rodrigo epigone but his music shares the Spanish composer’s mood and gift for beguiling invention. You can add this composer's name to that of Manuel Ponce as someone whose guitar music needs to be explored. By the way, do not overlook Ponce's Concerto del Sur for guitar and orchestra. Like so much else from that era including these works by Castelnuovo-Tedesco - it was written for Segovia – recorded by him and also by Alfredo Moreno with Enrique Batiz.

These recordings were originally issued in 2004 on MusicMasters. I hope that there is more to come and if not that Nimbus might find funding for a collection of this composer's concertante works for guitar. It's that good.

-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: NI2536

  • UPC: 710357253621

  • Label: Nimbus

  • Composer: Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco

  • Conductor: Richard Kapp

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, Shanghai String Quartet

  • Performer: Eliot Fisk