Exactly eighty years ago, on 28 October 1939, the Concerto in D Major for Guitar and Orchestra, Opus 99 by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco had its world premiere in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Written at the request of his friend Andres Segovia, the work was conceived in the shadow of Italy’s anti-semitic campaign, a painful time which ultimately led the composer to seek exile in the United States.
Founded in 1908, the Lyceum Club Internazionale di Firenze was the first women’s club to be founded in Italy, dedicated to women’s emancipation, internationalism, and peace. In addition, cultural programs have been an objective of the Club since its birth more than 100 years ago. As a young man, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco performed frequently at the Lyceum, and today the Lyceum continues to host concerts to raise awareness of Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s music among the Florentine public.
In 2015 the composer’s family donated a collection of scores and books to the Lyceum which Castelnuovo-Tedesco had kept at his home in Florence. The collection includes more than 700 pieces of music, both manuscripts and printed music, which date from 1620 to 1964. More than 100 composers are represented, with texts in five languages and three Italian dialects! Most of the works date from the 19th and 20th centuries, and many also have dedications to the composer from teachers, friends, and colleagues.
On August 31, 2019, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Aucassin et Nicolette will premiere in its Italian language version at the Teatro Pergolesi in Jesi, Italy.
Written in 1938, just months before Castelnuovo-Tedesco left Italy to emigrate to the United States because of Mussolini’s racial laws, Aucassin et Nicolette is based on a 12th century French chantefable and was conceived for “one voice, some instruments and some marionettes”.
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco is mostly closely associated with his native city of Florence – where he studied and lived until his emigration to the United States in 1939 – and the Tuscan countryside that so profoundly inspired him. However, the composer also has a little known connection with Bologna and its conservatory; Bologna is where Castelnuovo-Tedesco took the exams for his diploma in composition in 1918. Maestro Piero Bonaguri and Professor Annarosa Vannoni of the Conservatorio di Musica Giovan Battista Martini of Bologna recently uncovered Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s exams and related documents in the conservatory’s archives, and they kindly shared their findings with the Castelnuovo-Tedesco Archives.
Christopher Parkening still recalls the date: March 10, 1963. On this long-ago evening, he first performed Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Concerto in D Major, Opus 99 at Royce Hall at the University of California at Los Angeles. In this excerpt from his interview with Marcelo Kayath of the Guitar Coop, Parkening shares his memories of learning the piece, with weekly coaching from the composer, at age 15.
Although Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco described his musical Greeting Cards as a pastime, he continued to write them for 14 years, leaving a total of 52 works composed for various instruments. Now, the Greeting Cards he composed for guitar have been collected for the first time in a critical edition by Frédéric Zigante (Ricordi). The edition is available at Music Shop Europe.
After premiering at Carnegie Hall in 1933, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s second violin concerto, The Prophets, was supposed to have had its first Italian performance in early 1938. However, the Italian premiere of this work, inspired by the composer’s Jewish origins, was cancelled for mysterious reasons. A few months later, the arrival of Italy’s anti-semitic laws made the situation painfully clear and prompted Castelnuovo-Tedesco to seek exile in the United States.
On March 5, 2019 the concerto finally arrived in Florence, in a magnificent performance by Orchestra della Toscana, conducted by Daniele Rustioni and featuring the violinist Francesca Dego as soloist.
Two previously unpublished chamber music works written by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco during his American years are now available from Edizioni Curci. Published in collaboration with CIDIM – Comitato Nazionale Italiano Musica, the new editions are: the String Trio for violin, viola and cello, Opus 147, and the Third String Quartet, Opus 203.