This month, a world premiere recording by Francesca Dego and Francesca Leonardi of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Ballade for violin and piano, Opus 107, gives this gem a second chance to shine in all its brilliance.
Written in 1940 for the great violinist Tossy Spivakovsky, Ballade was one of the first pieces Castelnuovo-Tedesco wrote upon his arrival in the United States. Spivakovsky, himself a recent immigrant to the United States, premiered the work that same year at Carnegie Hall. Until 2018, it had literally never been heard again.
Ballade is one of four pieces by the Florentine composer heard on Dego and Leonardi’s new CD for Deutsche Grammaphon, Suite Italienne. A passionate dialogue between two instruments dear to Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Ballade expresses a wide variety of colors and emotions. Of the work Castelnuovo-Tedesco wrote in his autobiography, Una Vita di Musica:
“The idea for the piece was given to me by Tossy himself. He had pointed out to me that in the violin literature there were no Ballades, apart from the Vieuxtemps. So I wrote a Ballade adopting the broad strophic style that was so dear to Chopin. The piece is large in scope and rich with ideas…This was another piece that I was unable to have published because American publishers were adverse to extensive, technically demanding works.”
In 2017, the composer’s family entrusted Ballade to Edizioni Curci for publication in its Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco Collection, edited by composer and scholar Angelo Gilardino and presented in association with CIDIM, Comitato nazionale italiano musica (Italian National Music Committee).
Photo of Francesca Leonardi and Francesca Dego by Davide Cerati.