Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Piano Concertos 1 & 2; Solo Piano Works / Pietro Mass, piano


This recent release on the Capriccio label offers some rarely heard music for piano by Castelnuovo-Tedesco, including three world-premiere recordings. The two-CD set includes both of the composer's piano concertos as well as an entire disc of solo piano works. The concerto recordings were taken from a live 2011 performance by pianist Pietro Massa and the Neubrandenburger Philharmonie under Stefan Malzew (although you can hardly tell they're live, so silent is the audience and fine the recording). All of the solo piano pieces were recorded by Mr. Massa in the studio.

Before the Second World War, Castelnuovo-Tedesco fled fascist Italy and, like so many European artists, emigrated to the U.S., settling in Hollywood. With the help of Jascha Heifetz and Arturo Toscanini, he became a very successful composer of film music. He is primarily known for his compositions for guitar, and it is these pieces which are best represented on CD. Aside from his film music, Castelnuovo-Tedesco's orchestral output is relatively small - two concertos each for violin, guitar and piano, one for cello and a dozen or so overtures.

The Piano Concertos nos. 1 & 2 come from 1927 and 1937 respectively. Both are vivid, sunny works, melodic and lushly scored. Traditional in terms of form and orchestration, there is no evidence of the Second Viennese School and the radical changes music was undergoing in Europe at the time. So you can get a feeling for how this music sounds, I've provided the concluding third movement of the Second Piano Concerto as a sample of this recording. You can also hear the lovely Alghe of 1919 for solo piano in the video below.

Most of the solo piano works in this set come from the second decade of the 20th century. They are largely impression pieces inspired by subjects of art, literature and geography. With harmonies that are more chromatic than in the two piano concertos, tonal centers are further veiled in most of the solo piano works. In all of Castelnuovo-Tedesco's music, but especially in these solo piano pieces, you can hear the influence of some of the composers he most admired, Debussy, Ravel, de Falla and Respighi.

Alghe of 1919 for solo piano - the piece is on this album although it is not the same performance