After many years’ absence, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Violin Concerto no.2 The Prophets returned to the stage in Rome on the evenings of April 28, 29, and 30, 2022. The concert on April 29 was also live streamed on Italian Radio (RAI 3) and broadcast the following day on Italian Television (RAI 5). Congratulations to Maestro Sakari Oramo, soloist Emmanuel Tjeknavorian, and the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia for their moving, unforgettable performances of this work.
The composer’s family would also also like to thank Dott. Mauro Bucarelli, Professor Bruno Cagli and Maestro Michele dell”Ongaro of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia for their interest in Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s music and for their commitment to bring it back to the Roman stage.
Inspired by the composer’s Jewish heritage, The Prophets has a rich history. On April 12, 1933, the work had its world premiere at Carnegie Hall in New York City, performed by the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Arturo Toscanini, with Jascha Heifetz as soloist. On March 11,1934 this concerto was performed in Rome by the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, conducted by Bernardino Molinari, again with Heifetz.
In his autobiography, Castelnuovo-Tedesco recounted this about the creation of the work:
When I met with Heifetz in Paris in the spring of 1931, we agreed I would compose a new concerto for violin and orchestra. I explained my concept of the project, which I had been contemplating for some time. With the Concerto Italiano I had tried to convey the Latin side of my culture, my experience, and the environment in which I was born and raised. But with the new concerto I wanted to explore another side of my personality, the Jewish element (more distant, yet no less important). Initially, Heifetz was a bit hesitant about the idea. He was concerned that a specifically Jewish concerto could encounter hostility in certain anti-Semitic milieus in America, and unfortunately, by then, in Europe as well, and he worried that this could hinder its acceptance. For that very reason I insisted!
We hope there will be more occasions to hear this work live in the near future. In the meantime, some excellent recordings are available, starting with the original recording by Heifetz and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Alfred Wallenstein (1956) and the now-classic performance of Itzhak Perlman and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta (1990). In addition, two new recordings have been released in recent years: Domenico Nordio with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana (Sony) and Tianwa Yang with the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden Baden und Frieburg (Naxos).
Thank you to L’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia for the concert photos.