In the 1940s, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco wrote a number of transcriptions of iconic melodies. Although some were purely commercial commissions, others he did just for fun, to offer to his famous friends to perform in concerts. Some of these “experiments,” as Mario called them, have recently been reissued by Carl Fischer in two new editions, one of violin and piano arrangements and the other of cello and piano arrangements. Both volumes are anchored by the most famous of these arrangements, Figaro from The Barber of Seville by Rossini, originally published in 1945. Originally conceived for cello and piano for his friend Gregor Piatigorsky, the work was at first rejected by the famous cellist, who was unsure how the public would receive a caricature of such a famous work. Jascha Heifetz was game, so Mario created an arrangement for violin and piano as well, which Heifetz performed for delighted audiences.
Castelnuovo-Tedesco writes in his autobiography:
I chose Figaro’s cavatina “Largo al Factotum,” and, I must confess, I wrote with complete impertinence: scrupulously following the vocal line (albeit with a great deal of embellishment), then enhancing it with biting harmonies and completely imaginary passages that I dreamed up for the piano. Did Rossini roll over in his grave? I hope not! Good old Gioacchino had too much wit not to have enjoyed this.
In addition to Figaro, Carl Fischer’s new violin and piano edition comprises Rosina from The Barber of Seville, based on the cavatina “Una voce poco fa” and dedicated to the violinist Nathan Milstein (1904-1992); and a 1945 arrangement, written for the violinist Joseph Szigeti, of Jeux d’Eau from Ravel’s Miroirs, whose music was very dear to Castelnuovo-Tedesco. Carl Fischer’s new cello and piano volume features Figaro as well as La Vallée des Cloches from Ravel’s Miroirs, which Mario arranged for Piatigorsky.
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Three Arrangements of Ravel and Rossini for violin and piano is available here.
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Two Arrangements of Ravel and Rossini for cello and piano, is available here.
The composer’s family hopes to make more of Mario’s arrangements available soon.
Aleksey Semenenko and Inna Firsova perform Figaro for violin and piano on Romantic, Brilliant, Imaginative (Ars Production).
Mauro Tortorelli and Angela Meluso perform Figaro for violin and piano on Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Music for Violin and Piano (Brilliant Classics).
Amedeo Cicchese and Barbara Panzarella perform Figaro for cello and piano on Arioso (Brilliant Classics).
Brinton Averil Smith and Evelyn Chen perform the Castelnuovo-Tedesco arrangement of La vallée des cloches for cello and piano on Castelnuovo-Tedesco Cello Concerto and Transcriptions (Naxos).