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ClassicsOnline Home » CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO, M.: 24 Caprichos de Goya (Dukic)
With its grotesque cast of supernatural beings and subhuman characters, the satirical etchings of Francisco Goya’s Los Caprichos (1799) portray the sufferings of 18th century Spain in some of Western art’s most influential images. Originally conceived for Andrés Segovia, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s 24 Caprichos de Goya has seldom been recorded complete, as it is here by Croatian guitarist Zoran Dukic, whose spectacular virtuosity, profound musicianship and artistic maturity have won him more first prizes in international competitions than anyone else in the world.
By Jed Distler
By Kenneth Keaton
American Record Guide
By Glyn Pursglove
This is a well-played, well-recorded and well-documented version of a sequence for guitar which deserves to be better known than it is. It is a work which deserves to be heard, more often, as a whole, rather than merely excerpted as part of one or another recital.
Though the comparison is a tempting one, it would probably be overstating the case to claim that 24 Caprichos de Goya is the guitarist’s Pictures from an Exhibition. Even if it doesn’t quite have the expressive range and power of Mussorgsky’s work, Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s cycle has a distinctive poetry of its own, a subtle unity of musical construction and a wealth of musical invention that should please and satisfy many listeners.
After leaving Italy in 1939—as Mussolini introduced anti-Jewish legislation—Castelnuovo-Tedesco settled in California, where he taught, composed works for the concert hall—and wrote lots of film music. Perhaps his experience in writing for cinema influenced his desire to write music in response to some of Goya’s most striking visual images. Goya’s Caprichos (Caprices) were executed between about 1793 and 1798, begun at a time when he was convalescing from the serious—and mysterious—illness from which he suffered in 1792 and which left him wholly deaf. The Caprichos brought into Goya’s work an increased sense of the bizarre and the morbid, here deployed in the service of a powerful satirical and moral vision, the satiric targets including religious abuses, sexual immorality and hypocrisy, medical frauds and aristocratic absurdity. In total Goya made a series of 82 plates, etchings reinforced with aquatint. A complete collection of the images can be seen online here.
Castelnuovo-Tedesco chose 23 of the Caprichos and added to them another plate, the ‘Sueño de la mentira y inconstancia’. The work, completed in 1961, was designed for Segovia—the composer had met the guitarist, along with Manuel de Falla in Venice in 1932—but he never made the planned recording.
Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s response to Goya’s often scabrous images has a greater elegance than one might have expected and this is, perhaps, a limitation on his capacity to the full range of their moods and the savagery of some of their attacks. But much of what the composer does is fascinating, often witty and always interesting. Fortunately, the Naxos booklet does the work proud—providing the listener with an image of every single one of the 24 plates of which Castelnuovo-Tedesco created his musical ‘translations’.
Take, for example, the fifteenth item in the sequence, ‘¿Si sabrá más el discipulo?’ (‘Or does the pupil know more?). Goya’s image—which is plate no. 37 in the Caprichos—shows a wonderfully solemn donkey teaching a younger donkey the alphabet. The image can be interpreted in a number of ways; the donkey-teacher points to the letter ‘A’, which might make the viewer think ‘A is for Ass (Asno)’, but the ‘teacher’ himself seems unaware of how he might be taken to be designating himself; the imagery is part of Goya’s larger mockery of the professions in contemporary Spain and of the decayed state of the educational system. The image can also be read as a wider satire of the phenomenon according to which, as George Bernard Shaw put it ‘Those who can do; those who can’t teach’. Castelnuovo-Tedesco responds by interpreting the image in terms of a particular application of his own. One of the composer’s fellow residents in Los Angeles was Schoenberg, master of more than a few ‘disciples’, musically speaking. It is surely Schoenberg who Castelnuovo-Tedesco has—quite unfairly—but when was satire ever fair?—in his piece. It begins with a kind of ass-like bray, a tone-row is played (perhaps we should imagine it put before the student by the teacher-donkey). It is then transmuted—presumably by the student, who Castelnuovo-Tedesco, remembering Goya’s title, wants to suggest knows better than his donkey-like teacher—into a gavotte and, indeed, into two musettes; the teacher appears to offer some donkey-like comments. While considerably gentler than the visual original, the music has a real satirical point and the whole is a delight!
Elsewhere, there are many striking touches. In ‘El amor y la muerte’ the woman and the dying man she holds in her arms are embodied in a plaintive tango, by turns both blackly amorous and grief-struck. In ‘No hubo remedio’ (Nothing can be done about it), Goya depicts a woman sentenced to death by the Inquisition, surrounded by figures of authority and by a grimly gleeful mob. Castelnuovo-Tedesco writes, with black aptness, a passacaglia constructed of variations on the Dies irae. Goya’s ‘¿De que mal morira?’ (What illness will he die from?) shows us, quite splendidly, a donkey in the guise of a doctor, taking a sick man’s pulse with his hoof, a well-meaning bewilderment on the donkey-doctor’s face. It’s a marvellous image of medicine with no real power to do its patients any good. Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s musical response wittily—but with a kind of solicitude—plays with various conventions of funeral music, including ‘A Funeral March for a Marionette’ and an evocation of the funereal drum at its close.
It would be tedious to continue enumerating the inventiveness of Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s response to Goya; enough has been said, I hope, to commend his 24 Caprichos de Goya to those who don’t know the work. It is good to be able to suggest that such listeners make the acquaintance of the work in this new recording by the Croatian guitarist Zoran Dukic. He copes well with the often considerable technical demands of the music; indeed, he is at his best in the more complex and virtuosic passages. In some of the quieter, simpler passages he doesn’t perhaps articulate the full poetry of Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s writing, in which regard Lily Afshar’s performance on Summit (Summit Records DCD167) is more completely successful. But that is a minor quibble and not a serious limitation to a generally fine performance, a performance which benefits both of from a good recorded sound and the advantages of a well-produced booklet.
This is a work which deserves to find more hearers than it has hitherto attracted; and this is a recording well-fitted to help it do so.
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895–1968)
24 Caprichos de Goya for Guitar, Op. 195
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco was born in Florence and studied composition and piano at the Istituto Musicale Cherubini and later at the Liceo Musicale of Bologna. His teachers were Pizzetti and Casella, members of the influential and progressive Società Italiana de Musica, a group of influential composers with whom Castelnuovo-Tedesco became closely associated. Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s interest in writing for the guitar began with his introduction to Andrés Segovia, who had travelled to Italy with Manuel de Falla, at the Venice International Festival in 1932. As a result he was to compose over a hundred works for the instrument, including concertos, chamber music, many solos and some of the finest pieces for two guitars, these last inspired by the illustrious French duo, Ida Presti and Alexandre Lagoya. In 1939, as a result of Mussolini’s 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.
The great Spanish painter, Francisco Goya (1746–1828) was appointed Court Painter to Charles IV in 1789. In 1792 he retreated to Cadiz for several months when illness brought about severe deafness, but on his return to Madrid in 1797 he resumed his activities, becoming First Court Painter in 1799. Around this time he began etching his sequence of eighty Caprichos (Caprices). Following Napoleon’s invasion of Spain, Goya painted many vivid pictures of the atrocities of the war as well as portraits of the Duke of Wellington. In 1824 he left Spain and spent the last few years of his life in France.
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco selected 23 pictures from Goya’s Caprichos, and a further etching in similar style, as inspiration for an extended sequence of guitar solos, completing the work in 1961. The following notes present possible interpretations of Goya’s images (many of which are profoundly ambiguous and function at various symbolic and ironic levels of meaning), as well as descriptions of the music accompanying each picture (the number of the relevant plate is shown in brackets). In Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s 24 Caprichos de Goya, Op. 195, the composer allows his own imagination and artistic instincts to shape his individual response to each work of art rather than following any facile programmatic patterns.
I. Francisco Goya y Lucientes, Pintor (Francisco Goya y Lucientes, Painter) (Plate No. 1)
This provides a portrait of the painter. Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s sequence thus begins with Preamble, founded on a musical motto on Goya’s name, presenting a picture of a debonair, self-assured personality. Then comes a three part Fugue (Allegretto moderato) with a central section somewhat in the style of a March. The ending, a repetition of Goya’s name, this time in fortissimo octaves, is marked ‘sustained and pompous’.
II. Tal para qual (Two of a kind) (Plate No. 5)
The atmosphere here is of a shameless couple flirting ostentatiously, observed by two old women. The title suggests that both partners are equally to blame for improper behaviour. The music opens with a short introduction, playful and mocking, followed by a rhythmic passage leading to Tempo di Fandango. A central section brings in a more tender mood before the Fandango’s reprise. Then comes a passage marked ‘very expressive with false sentiment’, and a brief coda recalls the opening motif.
III. Nadie se conoce (Nobody knows himself) (Plate No. 6)
The key to this picture is the use of masks to hide identity, on the theme that society is governed by appearances. Goya himself commented that ‘Everybody tries to pretend to be something they are not, they all cheat and no one knows.’ The piece, Allegretto con spirito, is in the tempo of the Furlana (sometimes called Forlana), a North Italian dance in duple time (or six eight as here), associated with Venice. The dance originated in the Italian region of Friulia, a Slavonic republic under the control of the Venetian Republic, hence the lively Slav-like rhythms.
IV. Ni asi la distingue (Even so he cannot make her out) (Plate No. 7)
The gentleman in the picture is unable to establish exactly what kind of woman he is talking to, another instance of Goya’s fascination with the deceptiveness of social appearances and human relationships. Castelnuovo-Tedesco expresses these ambiguities through Allegretto mosso, pettegolo e manierato: Tempo di Badinage, meaning ‘fairly quick, gossipy and affected, in the Tempo of Jesting Talk’. The mood is established by rapid semiquavers and agitated movement.
V. Muchachos al avío (The boys getting ready) (Plate No. 11)
By their dress these ‘boys’ are identified as bandits or smugglers about to undertake their nefarious activities. The work is in the tempo of the Villancico, originally a Spanish rustic dance from the late fifteenth century. The dotted rhythms enact the swaggering gait of the robbers. Castelnuovo-Tedesco injects an element of humour into this movement as the painter confronts straightforward roguery, unlike the subtle but equally corrupt hypocrisies of
social existence depicted elsewhere.
VI. El amor y la muerte (Love and death) (Plate No. 10)
In this picture a girl embraces a dying man whose duelling sword lies on the ground. The composer expresses the drama in a Tempo di Tango, ‘heavy and tragic’, beginning with rhythmic chords followed by a plaintive, descending motif. Between them these elements represent the false bravado of the man and the grief of the lover. A middle section, un poco agitato, features a poignant melody marked at one point, ‘expressive and desolate in the manner of recitativo’. The final bars represent the last painful convulsions of the mortally wounded duellist.
VII. Estan calientes (They are hot) (Plate No. 13)
Goya portrays the elements of greed as the gluttons gobble down their hot food with no restraint or manners. Their antics are expressed musically by means of an opening Bourreé, rude e animato, imparting concepts of caricature and mockery. A middle section in the tempo of a Galliard contrasts against a reprise of the Bourreé. A second Galliard brings in a high staccato melody descending to soft rhythmic chords played con spirito.
VIII. Dios la perdone: Y era su madre (God forgive her: and it was her mother) (Plate No. 16)
A fashionably attired and sophisticated woman (possibly a prostitute), is asked for money by an old lady, who happens to be her mother. It may be that the young woman does not realise it is her mother or is deliberately ignoring her, the haughty posture being contrasted against the bent supplicant. In an introductory ‘quasi recitativo’ the notes spell out the Spanish words of the title, the phrases punctuated with loud staccato chords. The opening rhythm will be heard throughout in a Habanera, the popular Cuban dance with its seductive movement, which constitutes the main feature of the work. A short quasi cadenza section provides a moment of animated contrast before the return of the Habanera, ‘expressive and sad’.
IX. Bien tirada está (It is nicely stretched) (Plate No. 17)
In this image of the girl pulling on her stockings observed by an ugly crone, the implication is of low life and the sordid existence of the streets. The work begins with descending tritones (the musical interval of three whole tones often associated with sinister aspects). The mood is expressed through the jota, the dance from Aragon in which (among other features), the dancers swing outward first one leg then the other. Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s jota becomes
increasingly complex in texture, a middle section being marked ‘expressive and well sung’, but the essential vitality of the dance is sustained throughout until the re-introduction of the tritones.
X. Al Conde Palatino (To the Count Palatine) (Plate No. 33)
A caption on the Prado etching version of this picture comments that in all sciences ‘there are charlatans who know everything without having studied anything and who have a remedy for everything.’ One such individual is depicted here administering his own painful dentistry. The movement, in the form of a Minuet, to be played ‘ceremoniously and gallantly, but with irony’, is written first in the major key and then in the minor.
XI. Y se le quema la casa (And he’s burning down the house) (Plate No. 18)
This shows an inebriated, debauched old man with open trousers accidentally setting his house on fire. The symbolism suggests that vices of lust and excess are self-destructive. Castelnuovo-Tedesco adopts here characteristics of the popular Spanish song and dance El Vito. Following the statement of the main theme, another mood is introduced with a copla, an interlude evoking the singer’s solo voice (with implied guitar accompaniment). Finally the music fades away into the distance.
XII. No hubo remedio (Nothing could be done about it) (Plate No. 24)
Goya presents a picture of a woman sentenced by the Inquisition to be executed, flanked by stern figures of authority and the hideous faces of the mob. The composer deals with this grim topic by a set of variations in Passacaglia form on the theme of the Dies irae (Day of Wrath). The Passacaglia provides a bass melody around which seven variations are fashioned, each variation having its own distinct character. Variation 1, for example, has
the theme in the treble, Variation 2 is molto tranquillo, while Variation 4 is a virtuosic study. The ending, Variation 7, combines ‘sustained and grandiose’ loud chords with brilliant bursts of semiquavers in a final celebration of the Dies irae mood.
XIII. ¿Quién más rendido? (Which of them is more overwhelmed?) (Plate No. 27)
This picture shows a social fop importuning the favours of a woman in the street, her companions looking on in the background. The superficiality of this behaviour is ironically characterized in the music by means of the Rigaudon, a courtship dance from southern France popular in both the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. A middle section marked ‘a little sentimental (but in tempo)’, offers a contrast, evoking the flattering words of the man before the Rigaudon strikes up again.
XIV. Porque fue sensible (Because she was sensitive) (Plate No. 32)
This portrait of a woman in prison is the only one of the set to have no etched lines, being rendered entirely through aquatinting, a technique which enhances the contrast between the white prisoner and the gloomy background. This pensive scene is depicted by the rhythms of the Zortzico, a Basque folk-dance with eight steps in five-eight time. A ‘lamentoso’ introduction precedes the dance itself. A chordal episode, ‘sweet but rhythmic’ and ‘a little slow and sad’, looks forward to the gentle coda, expressing the girl’s plight with poignant intensity.
XV. ¿Si sabrá más el discipulo? (Perhaps the pupil knows better?) (Plate No. 37)
Goya endows animals with human characteristics, the pupil (a donkey) instructing the teacher (an older donkey), in the alphabet. Behind the image is the concept of how schools of learning transmit follies and falsehoods. With an introductory ass-like braying, the composer begins to lampoon the twelve-tone system of Schoenberg and his followers. After setting out the tone-row, the twelve notes are deployed (with added harmonies) in a Gavotte, before being ‘inverted’ and ‘retrograded’ in the usual manner of dodecaphonic practitioners. As well as Gavottes, two Musettes are added, mocking modern dissonance in a playful manner.
XVI. ¡Brabísimo! (Bravissimo!) (Plate No. 38)
This picture of a monkey performing on a guitar to a donkey is a satire on authority and politicians. In the music the listener is invited to imagine the material the monkey is performing. The piece begins with a very fast repeated note motif before an Allegretto moderato tempo introduces a Serenade, ‘grotesque and a little like a caricature’. This gives way to a lively episode exploiting the single note concept of the opening. The recapitulation expresses the sentimental side of the Serenade as well as utilising the repeated notes, bringing together the dual aspects of the work.
XVII. ¿De que mal morira? (Of what ill will he die?) (Plate No. 40)
This striking picture illustrates Goya’s detestation of the ignorant doctors of his day whose treatment often killed the patient. The donkey feels the pulse of the dying man but does not know the actual nature of the illness. The music, marked Funebre (Funereal), opens with a drumming dirge. A plaintive melody, fluttering like a weak pulse, is heard, followed by a Funeral March for a Marionette with staccato bass. The melodic elements are explored at length before the return of the March. The coda, lento morente (slow dying), expresses the patient’s final moments before the deadly drum ends the proceedings.
XVIII. El sueño de la razón produce monstruos (The sleep of reason produces monsters) (Plate No. 43)
Among Goya’s most famous images, this has been considered as one of the artist’s self-portraits. The man, either sleeping or dreaming (sueño in Spanish carries both meanings), is surrounded by evil-looking owls, a sinister lynx with pointed ears, and bat-like creatures. The music takes the form of a short Chaconne with five variations. Variation 1 deploys rapid arpeggios accompanying the Chaconne theme. Variation 2 moves into triplet patterns while Variation 3 uses the Chaconne in the bass against treble scale passages. The next Variation brings the theme back into the treble against a busy accompaniment before Variation 5, marked con fuoco (with fire) offers a chordal exploration in quavers of the insistent theme. The final recapitulation is ‘very slow and solemn’.
XIX. Hilan delgado (They spin finely) (Plate No. 44)
An old woman with a long neck spins yarn observed by two equally grotesque companions. To the right are several babies suspended from the ceiling. This piece, marked ‘rapid and sinister (like a macabre spinner)’, follows the tradition of music (including works by Schubert, Mendelssohn, Wagner, Saint-Saëns and others), enacting the ancient art of spinning. The perpetual motion is paused only for a sinister, misterioso interlude before the activity resumes.
XX. Obsequio a el maestro (Gift to the master) (Plate No. 47)
The fawning disciples offer a new born baby to the teacher from whom they have learned their evil ways. Rather than conjuring up images of depravity, Castelnuovo-Tedesco presents an introspective work through which, by including themes from one of his early mentors, Ildebrando Pizzetti (1880–1968), he presents his own gift to a Master.
XXI. ¡Qué pico de oro! (What a golden beak!) (Plate No. 53)
A parrot speaks to a a group of allegedly learned men who are entranced by the bird’s eloquence. In a lively Gigue, the music imitates the short stilted utterances of the parrot. A contrasting section, marked ‘burlesque’, appears twice while the coda provides an ironically triumphant finale.
XXII. Volaverunt (Off they flew) (Plate No. 61)
Volaverunt, derived from the Latin, expresses a sense of total loss. Goya described the picture as ‘The group of witches who act as a support to this fashionable fool is more of a decoration than a necessity. Some heads are so swollen with gas that they can fly without the aid of balloons or witches’. The person borne aloft is the Duchess of Alba, representing the inconstant nature of women. The composition is a study in triplets, ‘rapid and light’, its
perpetual motion evoking the incessant rapidity of the upward flight.
XXIII. ¡Linda maestra! (Pretty teacher!) (Plate No. 68)
Goya returns to the theme of witchcraft, using the time-honoured image of the broomstick as a means of black magic transportation. Marked Presto (like a witch’s ride), the music is reminiscent of Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Tarantella, (written in 1936 for Segovia), with its six-eight time and galloping rhythms. Despite the connotations of witchcraft, the ride that the composer offers is most enjoyable and spiced with sardonic humour.
XXIV. Sueño de la mentira y inconstancia (Dream of lying and inconstancy)
Though not one of the eighty Caprichos, this picture is in similar style and technique. It depicts two-faced women without fidelity surrounded by several grotesque figures, complete with a foreground snake signifying treachery. Naturally there is surmise that the man to the left of the picture is Goya himself and that the woman near him is the Duchess of Alba, but this is where legend and history become blurred and the precise biographical facts behind the picture remain more in the realm of conjecture than certainty. The climax of Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Caprichos de Goya is an extended work, comprising a Fantasia and Fugue. The Fantasia, with its flowing arpeggios divided by quieter moments of recitativo, contains certain characteristics of the last movement of the composer’s Sonata, Omaggio a Boccherini, Op. 77 (written for Segovia in 1934). The Fugue, marked ‘thoughtful and melancholic’, is very succinct leading to further bursts of arpeggio patterns and a momentary reprise of the Fantasia, ‘expressive and sad’. This composition appropriately concludes with a coda marked ‘pomposo e solenne’, where the strident octaves refer to the ending of the first piece of the entire set, the portrait of Goya himself.
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CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO, M.: 24 Caprichos de Goya (Duk...