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ClassicsOnline Home » CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO, M.: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 / 4 Dances for Love's Labour's Lost (Marangoni, Malmo Symphony, Mogrelia)
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s two Piano Concertos form a contrasting pair. Concerto No 1, written in 1927, is a vivid and witty example of his romantic spirit, exquisite melodies and rich yet transparent orchestration. Concerto No 2, composed a decade later, is a darker, more dramatic and virtuosic work. The deeply-felt and dreamlike slow movement and passionate finale are tinged with bleak moments of sombre agitation, suggestive of unfolding tragic events with the imminent introduction of the Fascist Racial Laws that led Castelnuovo-Tedesco to seek exile in the USA in 1939. The Four Dances from ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’, part of the composer’s recurring fascination for the art of Shakespeare, are atmospheric, richly characterised and hugely enjoyable. This is their first performance and recording.
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895–1968)
Piano Concertos Nos 1 and 2 • Four Dances from ʻLoveʼs Labourʼs Lostʼ
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, born in Florence, studied composition and pianoforte at the Istituto Musicale Cherubini and later at the Liceo Musicale of Bologna. His mentors were Pizzetti and Casella. These were members of the influential and progressive Società Italiana di Musica, a group of composers (including Malipiero and Respighi), with whom Castelnuovo-Tedesco became closely associated.
In 1938, as a result of Mussoliniʼs anti-Jewish edicts, Castelnuovo-Tedesco was obliged to seek refuge abroad, but after settling in California he became a prolific writer of film music between 1940 and 1956, in the same period composing more than seventy concert works. As a member of the faculty of the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music, he numbered among his pupils Henry Mancini, Nelson Riddle, André Previn, and the composer, John Williams. His works include operas, ballets, film scores, orchestral works, a quantity of choral pieces and songs, chamber music, piano compositions, and over a hundred pieces for guitar, ranging from concertos to many solos and duos.
Concerto No 1 in G major, Op 46, was written in a spirit of optimism and ebullience in 1927 when the composer was 32 years old. The opening movement, Allegro giusto, is both lyrical and virtuosic. Its good humoured vigour takes us directly to the vivid romantic heart of Italian lyrical traditions. After an orchestral introduction the piano enters with bravura chords leading to a short interlude. Piano and orchestra then join forces in an extended musical dialogue full of exquisite tunes and elegant flourishes. One delightful moment to cherish is a short cello entry so characteristic of the composer. The development is full of instrumental colour as the piano trips along with insistent rhythms and deft interplay with the orchestra. The recapitulation contains a few surprises not least of which is the witty, almost informal, ending.
The indication of the slow movement, Andantino alla romanza, clearly establishes its romantic credentials, and here the young Castelnuovo-Tedesco exercises his imagination in a gently introspective mood. The central focus of the Andantino is a lyrical piano theme which develops slightly darker shades of feeling as the work progresses. The final part quickens its tempo to greater urgency and dramatic intensity with short cadenza passages and subtle orchestral atmospherics. The slow movement then leads directly to the concluding Vivo e festoso, a joyous celebration initially reminiscent of the whirling dance of the Tarantella. A middle section offers a more thoughtful mood until, with a steady raising of the temperature, the music resumes its former energetic momentum in ever increasing excitement.
Of Concerto No 2 in F major, Op 92, written between 1936 and 1937, the pianist Alessandro Marangoni has commented that the original score was probably lost during the 1966 flood of the River Arno in Florence. The composer, however, had deposited a manuscript of the work in the Library of Congress, Washington DC, and this was used by the pianist to prepare a performing edition of the piano part for this recording. The orchestral parts derive from the Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music in Philadelphia.
Castelnuovo-Tedescoʼs Piano Concerto No 2 is a distinctly different work from its predecessor written a decade earlier. The first movement, Vivace e brillante, begins with an orchestral statement of great directness and purpose before the pianoʼs entrance in brilliant passages against the orchestra, followed by a short cadenza. The integration of the concerto elements is more controlled here with the orchestral writing being tighter and more dramatic against the enhanced virtuosity of the piano.
The unity between the First and Second Piano Concertos is perhaps implicit in that the second movement is in both instances alla romanza. In Concerto No 2 the movement is indicated as Romanza, tranquillo e meditativo, and in this instance the tranquil meditation inevitably takes a more serious and elongated tone. The Romanza begins with a wind passage highlighting the French horn, setting the mood before a contrasting passage from the strings. The piano enters quite unobtrusively with arpeggios before taking centre stage with a sensitive and (in this context) surprising cadenza of great beauty. The music proceeds with the piano and orchestra in close accord, a poignant reunion of a gentle nature. In full-blooded romantic vein, the movement continues with plaintive melodies and intriguing harmonies until once more the piano is allowed to sing its own ornamented song. When the other instruments join in, a kind of lullaby ensues till yet again the piano is left on its own. This sensitive episode, as with the previous Concerto, leads straight to the third movement, Vivo e impetuoso, a passionate dance of immense charm, vitality and virtuosity. Before its dramatic conclusion this movement also advances into bleak moods of sombre agitation suggesting deeper currents beneath the general atmosphere of the entire Concerto.
The art of William Shakespeare was a recurring fascination for Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. In the early 1920s he set to music 33 songs from the plays (of which the 31 for solo voice and piano are recorded on Marco Polo 8.223729) as well as 35 sonnets. In addition to eleven Overtures for various plays (recorded on Naxos 8.572500 & 8.572501), he also wrote two Shakespearean operas, The Merchant of Venice (1956) and Allʼs Well That Ends Well (1957).
This is the first performance and recording of Four Dances from ʻLoveʼs Labourʼs Lostʼ, an unpublished work written in 1953 and made into a performing edition of the score by Alessandro Marangoni.
The plot of Loveʼs Labourʼs Lost is quite intricate but may be summarised as follows. The King of Navarre and three lords sign a declaration vowing to study for three years, renouncing the company of women. The Princess of France, however, and three of her ladies arrive on a diplomatic mission, causing the declaration to run into difficulties. The men from Navarre try to outdo each other in a scene where they read aloud their poor love poems. The ladies then comprehensively fool the men in a scene which uses Russian disguise. A comic sub-plot concerns a Spaniard, his page, a country clown and a pregnant dairymaid, with contributions from a curate and a pedantic schoolmaster. Marcade, a French lord attendant on the Princess, arrives with news of the death of her father. The ladies compel the men to perform a yearʼs penance before they will marry them.
Sarabande (for the King of Navarre) makes no attempt to imitate sixteenth-century forms but instead presents a romantic impression of a sarabande with rich orchestration and colourful use of instrumental colour. Gavotte (for the Princess of France) is in effect a character sketch of the Princess herself and the dance has a witty, mocking lilt to it appropriate to the person. Castelnuovo-Tedesco includes here a form of variation on the theme Buonasera miei signori…buonasera…buonasera, from Act II of Rossiniʼs Barber of Seville. Spanish Dance (for Don Adriano de Armado) presents a musical caricature of the braggart Armado, a Spaniard who speaks in exaggerated sentences overloaded with a highly ornate vocabulary. Finally Russian Dance (Masque) refers to an intricate scene where the King and his three lords are disguised as Muscovites but the women have exchanged masks to trick their suitors into wooing the wrong people. Once again Castelnuovo-Tedesco writes satirically to convey the dramatic atmosphere, the result being a brilliant pastiche of a Russian dance.
A note on the editions
According to the composerʼs own catalogue of his works, the Second Concerto in F was published by Edizioni Forlivesi, Florence. However, despite exhaustive enquiries in Florence and at the SIAE (Società Italiana degli Autori ed Editori) in Rome, I was unable to locate the score, parts or two-piano reduction. It is highly likely that the original plates and all materials were lost during the 1966 flood of the River Arno in Florence which killed many people and damaged or destroyed millions of masterpieces of art and rare books. I am indebted to Lisbeth Castelnuovo-Tedesco, the composerʼs niece, for loaning me the manuscript deposited at the Library of Congress in Washington. I used this to prepare a performing edition of the piano part, while the orchestral parts derive from the Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music in Philadelphia, supervised by Kile Smith.
In 1956 Castelnuovo-Tedesco sent the Four Dances for ʻLoveʼs Labourʼs Lostʼ, Op 167 (1953) to Boosey & Hawkes but after a series of unsuccessful negotiations they were returned to the composer in 1959. In that same year Castelnuovo-Tedesco asked his friend, Franco Colombo, who worked at Ricordi in New York, for his help in securing publication but shortly afterwards Ricordi shut down and the manuscript was once again returned to the composer. Thanks to Lisbeth Castelnuovo-Tedesco, who kindly loaned me the manuscript, I have made a performing edition of the score and the orchestral parts.
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CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO, M.: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 an...