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Duo Pace Poli Cappelli : Mario Castelnuovo- Tedesco –Complete Music for two guitars: Double CD

CASTELNUOVO – TEDESCO: Les Guitares Bien Temperees Op199; Fuga Elegiaca Op210a; Sonatina Canonica Op196.

Duo Pace Poli Cappelli ; Andrea Pace , Cristiano Poli Cappelli , guitars

Brilliant Classics: 94833 (2CDs)

Mario Castelnuovo – Tedesco’s music for two guitars are some of the most important ever written for our instrument, as was all his solo guitar works, of which there are many. Of course he was in that generation that answered the call from Andres Segovia for modern pieces written for the guitar at a time when there was simply not enough. So, he, and Manuel Ponce, Alexander Tansman, Federico Moreno –Torroba, Joan Manen, Joaquin Turina, to name but a very few all wrote works for the guitar that were ground – breaking in so many different ways. However, one of the most important facts was that of that list of composers, none of them played the guitar at all. They all wrote in a style that suited them, and then Segovia, and after that, many others had to edit it to be playable on the guitar, which is one of the reasons why these composers’ music is firstly so fascinating because it sounds literally like no one else’s music, as the guitar writing is so individual, and secondly why all their music is usually so difficult to play. Having had the complete duos of Castelnuovo – Tedesco for a good number of years now, I can state with confidence that the music on this pair of CDs is some of the hardest for me and my duet partner to play and yet is also some of the most wonderful to try to play!

The 24 Preludes and Fugues that make up Les Guitares Bien Temperees, of course mimic their very idea from Bach’s ground- breaking 2 sets called The Well – Tempered Klavier, where every Prelude and Fugue is in one of the 24 keys. Which of course he wrote after the new system of tuning the Klavier was invented that enabled all the, until then , strange keys that use more and more flats and sharps , to be played without some of their notes sounding out of tune. Of course with the guitar duets, it is more a case of how rare is it that you find pieces in some of the more advanced sharp and flat keys. The unique nature of this work lies in the composer’s great ability to use at time, very basic ideas, but then honing them with an almost unparalleled skill to create perfect and very varied scenes that create a very accomplished set of pieces, each so different from its neighbour. This set is not the first to play these of course as I know of at last 5 more , but with Brilliant Classics you know that you are getting a value for money set, and certainly with these players you can sit back and take it as read that the playing will be superb throughout.

The Fugue Elegaica was written after the sudden death of Ida Presti and in its original form was written in Gm , to become a postscript to the ‘24’ , and ending in the same key as No1 began. Interestingly the duo here decide to play it in its original key , and not in the published form as edited by Ron Purcell, which takes it up a tone into Am, but in the view of the duo, not as mournful, and therefore does nothing to improve it as a completion to the ’24’. I can see what they mean when I compared the two keys on listening to rival performances of it.

The set concludes with the Sonatina Canonica, written for Presti – Lagoya back in 1961, and again shows the composer’s penchant for writing in the Canon form throughout its three movements, but in doing so, turns what some might consider a limiting idea, into a very hugely varied trio of movements , constantly entertaining in every way.

This is a fabulously enjoyable set of very important pieces indeed, by one of the modern era’s most wonderful composers of the guitar, played and recorded superbly by these players. Need I say more?

Chris Dumigan

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