Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s two Piano Concertos form a contrasting pair. Concerto No 1, written in 1927, is a vivid and witty example of his romantic spirit, exquisite melodies and rich yet transparent orchestration. Concerto No 2, composed a decade later, is a darker, more dramatic and virtuosic work. The deeply-felt and dreamlike slow movement and passionate finale are tinged with bleak moments of sombre agitation, suggestive of unfolding tragic events with the imminent introduction of the Fascist Racial Laws that led Castelnuovo-Tedesco to seek exile in the USA in 1939. The Four Dances from ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’, part of the composer’s recurring fascination for the art of Shakespeare, are atmospheric, richly characterised and hugelyRead more enjoyable. This is their first performance and recording.
R E V I E W:
CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO Piano Concertos: Nos. 1, 2. Love’s Labour’s Lost: 4 Dances • Alessandro Marangoni (pn); Andrew Mogrelia, cond; Malmö SO • NAXOS 8.572823 (76: 43)
Naxos’s two discs of this composer’s Shakespeare overtures really turned a lot of heads, mine included, a couple of years ago. Therefore, it was inevitable that the label would add to its Castelnuovo-Tedesco discography. The two piano concertos are not new to CD. However, as happens with greater frequency these days, alternative recordings have either gone out of print or are prohibitively expensive imports. This new release makes a lot of sense then, and it has been made all the more attractive by the addition of the four dances from Love’s Labour’s Lost, in not only their first recording but also their first performance!
That’s probably a good place to start. Castelnuovo-Tedesco composed these in 1953, but apparently Boosey & Hawkes, to which they were offered, did not publish them, and neither did Ricordi. Thus, they remained in manuscript, and unheard, until they were lent by the composer’s niece, Lisbeth Castelnuovo-Tedesco, to Alessandro Marangoni, who prepared a performing edition. This utterly delightful music should not have waited 60 years for a performance. The composer’s affinity for Shakespeare, already demonstrated in the concert overtures, also comes forward here. There is a gently ironic, somewhat Ravel-like and somewhat cinematic approach to old dance forms here. A lush Sarabande (for the King of Navarre) is followed by a mocking Gavotte (for the Princess of France) and a quietly loquacious Spanish Dance (for Don Adriano de Armado). Last is a Russian Dance—the flavoring is subtle—which corresponds to the scene in Shakespeare’s comedy in which the King and his scholarly companions disguise themselves as Muscovites to woo the Princess and her three ladies. Again, it floors me that this music had to wait so long to be heard.
A similar situation applies to the Piano Concerto No. 2. The original score appears to have been lost, but Marangoni found a copy in the Library of Congress and prepared a performing edition of the piano part. (The orchestral parts were found somewhere else—talk about pieces and parts!) Both of the concertos are an unusual marriage of virtuoso writing and Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s relatively relaxed compositional style. The second concerto is the darker of the two; it was composed in 1936–37, shortly before the composer, who was a Jew, left Italy, ending up in Hollywood. It is, however, not a tragic work, but it lacks the lightness and wit of the other two works on this CD. For me, its romantic gestures don’t add up to a lot, given the not very distinctive quality of the melodic writing. Also, Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s longer works don’t have the structural strength of the Shakespeare overtures, for example, and this also contributes to the sense that the music is always going somewhere but never quite arriving. It is, by the way, proudly tonal. I am reminded of Respighi’s comment, around this time, that “dissonance has its place as a medium of tone-color, and polytonality has important uses as a means of expression, but for their own sake, they are completely abhorrent to me.”
So, as suggested, the Piano Concerto No. 1 (1927), which opens the CD, is less moody. As Graham Wade writes in his booklet note, it “was written in a spirit of optimism and ebullience.” Like the second concerto, its middle movement is a Romanza, although here, its introspection is less merited, and perhaps driven simply by the need for contrast. As I relisten to both of these concertos, I think the best way to describe them would be “Nino Rota meets Rachmaninoff,” although the First, in particular, is less impressive than either of those composers usually managed to be.
Away from the piano bench, Marangoni appears to be putting unusual effort forward on behalf of the composer, and I have no reason to believe that his pianism is holding either of these concertos back. He seems to enjoy their romantic lushness, and he has the fingers to make the most of that quality. Andrew Mogrelia, a familiar name from many Naxos releases, is associated with ballet music, and so it is not surprising that color and transparency are two strong features of these recordings. The Swedish orchestra is just fine, as is the engineering.
This is most desirable, I think, for the 16 minutes allotted to the dances from Love’s Labour’s Lost. I don’t reject the possibility, however, that the two piano concertos might grow on me, in time.
Concerto for Piano no 2 in F major, Op. 92by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco Performer:
Alessandro Marangoni (Piano)
Malmö Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century Written: 1936/1937
Concerto for Piano no 1 in D major, Op. 46by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco Performer:
Alessandro Marangoni (Piano)
Malmö Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century Written: 1927; Italy
Excellent- A Real DiscoveryOctober 20, 2012By Henry S. (Springfield, VA)See All My Reviews"Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco's Piano Concerto #1 features strikingly delicate orchestral backing to a thoroughly virtuosic piano score. Written in 1927, it is reminiscent of piano concertos popular during the early Romantic era- great melody, strong thematic development, and firm balance between soloist and orchestra. Piano Concerto #2 is a more somber and broadly developed work. Its more serious tone perhaps reflects the Italy of the late 1930's as it moved toward World War 2. In any event, it is a masterful piece of music. The concluding work is the first recording of a series of dance episodes from 'Love's Labour's Lost,' a product of the composer's interest in Shakespeare. Throughout this excellent recording, the playing of the Malmo Symphony Orchestra under Andrew Mogrelia's dirction is first rate, as is the audio engineering effort by the Naxos team. Highly recommended."Report Abuse