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Angelo Marchese :Mario Castelnuovo – Tedesco Guitar Works Op. 71, 129, 176,177, and 180: CD

CASTELNUOVO – TEDESCO: Passacaglia Op180; Escarraman Op177; Tre Preludi Meditteranei Op176; Rondo Op129; Variazioni Op71. : CD

Angelo Marchese

Da Vinci Classics: DVC 00147

Mario Castelnuovo – Tedesco is one of the most well – known and well –loved of guitar composers from the 20th Century. Writing initially for Andres Segovia, and then writing for many other guitarists he managed to produce some of the most memorable and wonderfully crafted pieces that were utterly original and had a complete style of their own, whilst never actually being able to play the guitar himself. By the end of his life he had written dozens of works for and involving the guitar, including 2 full Concerti, and other works for guitar and orchestra, many solo works and a few duets as well, though this is far from the complete list. Because he couldn’t play the guitar many works had to pass through the hands of a guitarist, simply so they could make many areas of the music actually fit the guitar.

Angelo Marchese has picked five opuses that do spread in time over the vast majority of his guitar compositions. The Op180, a Passacaglia ( Omaggio a Roncalli) written in 1956 is extremely well – crafted, for indeed that is one element of his writing that never disappoints, the detail and care with which he writes in whatever style he is paying homage to. Dedicated to Segovia, but eventually edited by Angelo Gilardino for Edizioni Berben and published in 1970, the work takes us through fifteen variations on the initial ground bass, each one full of some wonderful detail and, after a revision by Gilardino, perfectly playable on our guitar. That does not make this, by any means, an easy piece to perform however as the number of voices and part writing that our composer introduces are always full of detail, that proves to be quite a handful. Our performer here has no difficulty in that respect and his beautifully clear recording and performance shows us just how adept he is at playing this tricky music.

Op177 Escarraman, a suite of Spanish Dances from the XVI Century, (after Cervantes) to give this suite its full name, consists of 6 pieces, written in 1955, all very varied, from the opening stately Gallarda, set in Dm with a 6th string tuned down to D (as indeed all the 6 pieces are tuned) , a very beautiful work that traverses many keys, and differing musical ideas, to the wonderful El Canario ( The Canary Jig) that really piles along at full pelt, with a memorable melody and some very imaginative harmonies, and , to mention just one more, El Villano ( The Country Bumpkin) whose music truly does cavort around, in a most loud and uproarious fashion. Again all 6 pieces are really captured well by Marchese, which is definitely not an easy feat to achieve.

Next come the Tre Preludi Meditteranei Op176, written the same year as the previous, 1955, which range from the opening Serenatella, through the beautiful Nenia and finishing with the lively Danza, and re not as often played I feel As some of the man’s other works, though they truly deserve to be. Indeed if he wrote anything for the guitar that wasn’t very good, I have yet to find it, and I have nearly all of his guitar works in manuscript.

The Rondo Op129 was written in 1946 for Segovia, though interestingly the first publication chose to be printed unedited, so that there were initially many places where it was literally impossible to play it, a situation that I imagine has been corrected now by Schotts. As it stands here, it is another stand- out performance, and once made playable, produces a great performance by Marchese, for the Rondo is yet another imaginative and cleverly thought – out piece of writing.

The final work on the recording is in fact the first one that the man wrote, which took place in 1932, was dedicated to Segovia and subsequently published in 1933 by Schotts, the Variazioni (attraverso I Secoli), a set of variations that literally traverse the centuries, beginning With the Baroque – styled Chaconne, through a Preludio, three Waltzes, and finishing with a Foxtrot, nine and a half minutes of sheer joy.

This is a great recording, full of wonderful pieces of music by a truly great composer. So if you are reading this review, and saying ‘who is the composer?’ this CD is the place to start!

Chris Dumigan

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