Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s 125th birthday came and went in April 2020, during the first, terrifying COVID lockdown. Events and concerts were all cancelled; everyone was on edge. However, in spite of all the obstacles, Duilio Meucci, with his prodigious talents as a guitarist and as a video director, managed to find an ingenious way to pay homage to the composer. Duilio and his collaborators created a socially distanced recording of a few bars from the unforgettable second movement of Mario’s Quintet for Guitar and Strings, Op.143. The result was as inspired as it was moving: in less than two minutes, these musicians truly captured the spirit of the moment. When Duilio informed us that he and his collaborators (the Quartetto Felix, the violinist Antonella D’Andrea, the flautist Marco Salvio, and guitarist Pietro Locatto) intended to record an entire CD of Mario’s chamber music with guitar, naturally we couldn’t wait to hear what they would come up with. The CD, titled Notes: Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco Guitar Chamber Music , was released in 2021 by the label Stradivarius.
According to the guitarist, “ The title Notes is anything but casual, nor are the works chosen to represent it. In recounting this repertoire, my will—with the help of a homogeneous time span going from 1950 to the last days of the Maestro’s life —has been to highlight the possibilities of salvation that the guitar assumes through chamber music, with compositional skills that can still be defined as exemplary acts of bravura and happy inspiration, unsurpassed to this day. As in a notebook, the notes collected take shape, and become the argument for possibilities, then become thesis, evidence, and, eventually, memory.”
Duilio kindly agreed to tell us more about his experience recording Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s music.
Diana Castelnuovo-Tedesco interviewed Duilio Meucci in December 2021.
Duilio, how did you decide to record this music? What did you hope to achieve?
I had always dreamed of performing the Quintet one day! From the first time I heard the interpretation of Yamashita with the Tokyo String Quartet, I have always been enchanted by this piece. As often happens, the performers “shape” the music, doing so in such a way that many fall in love with it. They connect the work to their vision in a lasting way and thus forever influence those who listen to it.
Your CD includes chamber music as well as a piece for two guitars and a short solo guitar work. How did you arrive at those choices?
As I mentioned, my dream was to study and perform the Quintet, and everything else followed from there. From the Quintet we then pare down to two and three instrument chamber works (Aria for trio, Fantasia for Guitar and Piano, Sonatina for flute and guitar), then move on to an epitome of guitar composition (Fuga Elegaica for two guitars) and finally arrive at an “unaccompanied melody” played by the guitar “like a prayer”[Appunti Op.210, libro 1: no.2]: even in a simple piece, the chamber music orientation of MCT and his overarching orchestral vision strongly emerge.
What would you like the listener to take away from your recording?
The idea that life, like music, is only possible together, even when one is alone.
Did your collaborators already know Mario’s music, or was it their first experience performing it?
Certainly they were familiar with Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s music, especially with the Concerto [Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra in D Major, op.99]. But it was the first time that they played it (with the exception of the flautist, Marco Salvio).
While you were studying and playing these pieces, what particularly touched or surprised you?
Mario’s clarity of thought: what he wanted to express was explicit, not only in the musical writing but also in the extremely refined tempo marks, which inspired me personally in an interpretation that is as close as possible to the author’s wishes (e.g. in the fourth movement of the Quintet, Allegro con fuoco, track 4).
Which of the pieces that you recorded is your favorite and why?
Without a doubt my favorite piece is the Quintet, as I already explained. My youthful fascination has been confirmed as I have matured.
If there is anything else you would like to add, please do so!
I would add that I am happy to have worked on this music. I feel that it is incredibly important. I would also like to sincerely thank all of the musicians who agreed to collaborate with me on making this dream come true.
How wonderful that you have made your dream come true! Thank you, Duilio, for sharing your experience with us. Congratulations to you and your collaborators for the very beautiful music you have created.