With few live concerts due to the pandemic, this year virtual performances have delivered much-needed beauty and hope to keep us going in these challenging times. Many wonderful artists have released recordings of Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s music in the past (check out this list); in 2020, an array of new monograph recording projects have brought to light even more of the composer’s extensive catalog. They include:
The Importance of Being Earnest (Odyssey Opera)
Mario’s final opera setting, completed in 1962, is now available in a complete recording by Boston’s Odyssey Opera. This witty chamber opera for eight singers, two pianos, and percussion had only been performed a handful of times before Odyssey presented the Boston premiere as part of its 2016-2017 season, to very positive reviews. “Set to music in a continually clever fashion by Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Oscar Wilde’s greatest comedy takes on a new life,” writes Gil Rose, Artistic and General Director of Odyssey Opera. “Opera buffs will be intrigued with the many opera quotations and references.”
Songs from a Lost world of Italian-Jewish Composers, Vol III (Blue Griffin)
Soprano Caroline Helton and collaborative pianist Kathryn Goodson, colleagues at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, have released their third exploration of Italian-Jewish composers, which focuses exclusively on Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s rarely-heard settings of Italian poetry. In her thoughtful liner notes, Prof. Helton writes, “In an effort to fulfill Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s wish that his songs define his legacy through their continued performance, we offer these first recordings of five sets of songs in Italian, four of which were written before his wrenching expatriation in 1939, and one written in 1949, after he became an American citizen. The variety of texts is breathtaking and a testament to his literary curiosity and appetite. From Petrarch to prose, from folk poetry in dialect to humorous first person ballads, what shines through is the humanity of the text, in all its complexity and sincere emotion.”
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Chamber Music (Brilliant Classics)
After their triple-CD set of Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s music for violin and piano in 2018, the Gran Duo Italiano (Mauro Tortorelli, violin, and Angela Meluso, piano) have joined forces with Massimo Macrì (first cello of the RAI National Orchestra in Turin) and Pierluigi Bernard (first clarinet of the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra) to record a selection of the composer’s chamber music for clarinet, violin, cello and piano, in various combinations. The highlight of the album is the world premiere recording of Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s quartet for violin, piano, cello and clarinet, the Pastorale and Rondo, written in 1958 but not published until 2017. The CD also includes the Cello Sonata (1928), the Second Piano Trio in G minor (1932), and the jazz-inflected Clarinet Sonata, op.128 (1945).
Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Music for Violin and Piano (Brilliant Classics)
Fulvio Luciani and Massimiliano Motterle, long-time advocates for and performers of the composer’s music, have recorded a selection of works including the Concerto no.3, a sonata-like three movement piece for violin and piano commissioned by Heifetz in 1939 (but never performed by the great violin virtuoso and only recently published). Luciani and Motterle are intimately familiar with the work: they performed the modern premiere in Italy in 2016. In addition to some miniatures from the composer’s Italian years, the album includes two world premieres written after his arrival in America: Twelve Chopin Preludes, transcribed for violin and piano by the composer in 1946, as well as Three Brahms Intermezzi transcribed for violin and piano by Castelnuovo-Tedesco in 1947 and dedicated to the great violinist Tossy Spivakovsky.
Castelnuovo-Tedesco Dedications (Digressione Music)
This is the second recording project that the pianist Angelo Arciglione has devoted to Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s piano work. Arciglione focuses on works from the composer’s American years, all of which were dedicated to friends and colleagues in the musical world. Most of the tracks are world premiere recordings. “To these musicians, for which the composer had the highest consideration, and to their great human and artistic value, Castelnuovo-Tedesco offered precious and sincere homages, collected here with passion and instrumental wisdom by Angelo Arciglione,” writes musicologist Eleonora Negri in the informative liner notes.
Thank you to all the artists for their fine work!
New recordings of Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s guitar works will be featured in a future post.