Accompanied by the Orchestra Sinfonica Abruzzese, the Italian classical guitarist Marco Salcito performs Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Guitar Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 99. Conductor: Marcello Bufalini. Recorded live in January 2016 in L’Aquila, Italy.
Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Guitar Concerto No. 1
At the 1932 festival of the International Society of Contemporary Music, held in Venice, Castelnuovo-Tedesco first met the legendary Spanish guitarist Andrés Segovia. The meeting inspired Castelnuovo-Tedesco to write for the guitar, beginning with his Variazioni attraverso i secoli (Variations à travers les siècles), Op. 71 (1932), and later his Guitar Concerto No. 1 (1939). Some of his works were written and dedicated to Segovia, who was an enthusiast of his style.
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Guitar Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 99, stands as a significant contribution to the guitar repertoire, particularly within the context of the concerto genre. Composed in 1939, this work is a testament to Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s deep understanding of the guitar’s unique qualities and his innovative approach to integrating it within the orchestral framework. His expertise allowed him to craft a piece where the guitar, despite its relatively quiet nature, is never overshadowed by the orchestra but instead shines through with its distinctive timbre and expressive capabilities.
The concerto emerged during a period when the classical guitar was beginning to gain recognition as a solo concert instrument, largely through the efforts of Andrés Segovia, to whom the concerto is dedicated. Segovia’s influence and advocacy for the guitar played a crucial role in inspiring composers to write for the instrument, and Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s concerto is among the most celebrated results of this collaboration. Segovia himself used the concerto as a counterexample to the belief that the guitar could not hold its own in a concerto setting against the backdrop of a full orchestra. This work not only disproves such notions but also showcases the guitar’s potential for lyrical expression and virtuosic display within the classical music tradition.
Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s approach to balancing the guitar with the orchestra is masterful. He achieves this equilibrium through careful orchestration, ensuring that the ensemble supports rather than overwhelms the solo instrument. The composer’s scoring is characterized by transparent textures and strategic use of the orchestra, allowing the guitar’s voice to project clearly. This is facilitated by his thoughtful handling of dynamics, instrumental combinations, and moments of dialogue between the guitar and various orchestral sections, creating an interplay that highlights the guitar’s nuances and coloristic possibilities.
The concerto is imbued with Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s lyrical melodic lines, harmonious richness, and rhythmic vitality, elements that reflect his Italian heritage and his affinity for melody and operatic forms. Moreover, the work is noted for its integration of Spanish influences, which is fitting given the guitar’s historical and cultural associations with Spain. These elements, combined with Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s sophisticated harmonic language, contribute to the concerto’s distinctive character and enduring popularity.
The significance of Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Guitar Concerto No. 1 extends beyond its musical virtues. It represents a milestone in the guitar’s history, elevating the instrument’s status and expanding its repertoire with a work of depth and sophistication. It also exemplifies the fruitful collaboration between composer and performer, in this case, Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Segovia, highlighting the potential for such partnerships to enrich the musical landscape. Through this concerto, Castelnuovo-Tedesco not only demonstrated the guitar’s compatibility with the orchestra but also provided a model for future composers, paving the way for the guitar to be embraced more fully within the classical music tradition.
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco wrote almost one hundred compositions for the classical guitar, which earned him a reputation as one of the foremost composers of the guitar in the twentieth century.
With start times in the video:
- 00:10 Allegretto
- 06:45 Andantino. Alla romanza
- 15:06 Ritmico e cavalleresco
The first movement of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Guitar Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 99, is marked Allegretto, setting the stage with a mood that is both lively and lyrical. This movement beautifully illustrates the composer’s skill in blending the guitar’s intimate voice with the broader sonic palette of the orchestra, creating a dialogue that is at once balanced and engaging.
From the outset, Castelnuovo-Tedesco employs a thematic approach that allows the guitar to introduce melodic material, which is then echoed and developed by the orchestra. The movement is structured around these themes, showcasing the guitar’s versatility as both a melodic and harmonic instrument. The Allegretto’s opening theme is memorable for its graceful, flowing melody, which the solo guitar presents with clarity and expression. This theme serves as a foundation for the movement’s development, as it undergoes various transformations and reappearances, each time enriched by the orchestral accompaniment.
The orchestration is carefully considered to ensure that the guitar is never overwhelmed. Castelnuovo-Tedesco achieves this through transparent textures and the strategic use of instruments within the orchestra. For instance, he often employs woodwinds and strings in a way that complements the guitar’s sound rather than competing with it. This sensitivity to balance is a testament to the composer’s understanding of the guitar’s capabilities and limitations in a concerto setting.
Dynamics play a crucial role in this movement, with Castelnuovo-Tedesco using them to create contrast and highlight the guitar’s contributions. The dynamic range is carefully managed to allow for moments of intimacy and subtlety, as well as passages of greater intensity and volume, where the guitar remains audible and central to the musical texture.
The interplay between soloist and orchestra in the Allegretto is not just a matter of balance but also of conversation. The movement is characterized by exchanges in which the guitar and the orchestra respond to and reflect upon each other’s ideas, creating a sense of partnership that is both musical and dramatic. This dialogue is facilitated by the movement’s structure, which allows for moments of soloistic display alongside more collaborative sections.
2. Andantino. Alla romanza
The second movement of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Guitar Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 99, is marked Andantino alla romanza, embodying a deeply lyrical and expressive character that highlights the guitar’s capacity for intimate, vocal-like expression. This movement serves as the emotional heart of the concerto, providing a stark contrast to the more lively and rhythmically driven outer movements.
In the Andantino alla romanza, Castelnuovo-Tedesco crafts a serene and tender melody that allows the solo guitar to sing. The movement is characterized by its romantic sensibility, with the guitar’s melodic line flowing effortlessly over a delicate orchestral accompaniment. The orchestration is subtle and restrained, ensuring that the solo instrument’s voice remains at the forefront, while the strings and woodwinds provide a soft, harmonious backdrop that enhances the guitar’s lyrical passages.
The structure of this movement is simple and straightforward, allowing the beauty of the melody and the expressiveness of the guitar to shine through without the distraction of complex formal developments. The emphasis is on melodic development and emotional expression, with Castelnuovo-Tedesco using the guitar to explore a range of nuances and colors. The soloist is given ample space to shape the melody with sensitivity and nuance, making the most of the guitar’s expressive potential.
The Andantino alla romanza is notable for its use of dynamics and phrasing, which contribute to the movement’s intimate and expressive quality. Castelnuovo-Tedesco demonstrates a keen understanding of how to convey emotion through music, using subtle shifts in volume and tempo to evoke a sense of longing, tenderness, and introspection. The interplay between the solo guitar and the orchestra is gentle and supportive, with each element of the ensemble contributing to the overall atmosphere of romantic lyricism.
This movement is a testament to Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s skill as a composer and his deep understanding of the guitar as a solo instrument. By placing the guitar in a context that emphasizes its melodic and expressive capabilities, he not only showcases the instrument’s unique qualities but also contributes to the expansion of its repertoire within the concerto genre. The Andantino alla romanza stands as a beautiful, introspective interlude within the concerto, offering listeners a moment of reflection and emotional depth amidst the more dynamic outer movements.
3. Ritmico e cavalleresco
The third movement of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Guitar Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 99, is marked Ritmico e cavalleresco, which translates to “Rhythmic and chivalrous.” This finale is a vibrant and energetic conclusion to the concerto, showcasing the guitar’s rhythmic capabilities and the composer’s flair for dramatic, spirited music.
In this movement, Castelnuovo-Tedesco returns to a more vigorous and lively atmosphere, similar in spirit to the first movement but with its own distinct character. The Ritmico e cavalleresco is characterized by its strong rhythmic drive and robust orchestration, creating a sense of grandeur and excitement. The movement’s title itself suggests a knightly or noble quality, which is reflected in the music’s bold and assertive nature.
The orchestration plays a crucial role in achieving the movement’s dynamic energy. Castelnuovo-Tedesco employs the full range of the orchestra, with particular emphasis on the brass and percussion to enhance the rhythmic impact and convey a sense of heroism. The guitar part is intricately woven into this texture, with the soloist navigating through complex rhythms and engaging in a lively dialogue with the orchestra. The composer’s skillful orchestration ensures that the guitar remains audible and prominent, despite the full forces of the ensemble.
Thematically, the Ritmico e cavalleresco is rich and varied, featuring a series of motifs and melodies that are developed and interwoven throughout the movement. The guitar introduces thematic material that is then taken up and expanded by the orchestra, creating a cohesive and unified musical narrative. Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s use of rhythm as a structural element gives the movement its distinctive drive and energy, with the guitar often leading the charge with strummed chords, rapid runs, and percussive effects.
The movement also showcases the soloist’s virtuosity, requiring technical prowess and a strong sense of rhythm to navigate the challenging passages and maintain cohesion with the orchestra. The interplay between the solo guitar and the orchestral parts is a testament to Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s understanding of the guitar’s role within the concerto genre, balancing soloistic display with ensemble collaboration.
The Ritmico e cavalleresco concludes with a flourish, bringing the concerto to a triumphant and exhilarating close. This movement not only highlights the guitar’s versatility as a solo instrument but also exemplifies Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s mastery of composition and orchestration. Through this spirited finale, the composer affirms the guitar’s place within the concerto repertoire, offering a work that is both challenging for the performer and rewarding for the listener.
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (April 3, 1895 – March 16, 1968) was an Italian composer. He was known as one of the foremost guitar composers in the twentieth century with almost one hundred compositions for that instrument. In 1939 he migrated to the United States and became a film composer for MGM Studios for some 200 Hollywood movies for the next fifteen years. He also wrote concertos for such soloists as Jascha Heifetz and Gregor Piatigorsky.
Like many artists who fled fascism, Castelnuovo-Tedesco ended up in Hollywood, where, with the help of Jascha Heifetz (2 February [O.S. 20 January] 1901 – 10 December 1987, Lithuania-born American violinist, widely considered to be one of the finest violinists of modern times), he landed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as a film composer. Over the next fifteen years, he worked on scores for some 200 films there and at the other major film studios. Rita Hayworth hired him to write the music for The Loves of Carmen (1948), produced by Hayworth for her Beckworth Productions and released by Columbia Pictures.
Castelnuovo-Tedesco was a significant influence on other major film composers, including Henry Mancini, Nelson Riddle, Herman Stein and André Previn. Jerry Goldsmith, Marty Paich, and John Williams were all his pupils, as was Scott Bradley, who studied privately with him while both were on staff at MGM. His relationship with Hollywood was ambiguous: later in life he attempted to deny the influence that it had on his own work, but he also believed that it was an essentially American art form, much as opera was European.
Institution Sinfonica Abruzzese
Founded in 1970 by Nino Carloni The Institution Sinfonica Abruzzese (Abruzzese Symphonic Institution) is one of 13 Italian Concert Orchestra institutions recognized by the state. The ISA operates an extensive and significant cultural action through its orchestra, the Orchestra Sinfonica Abruzzese. Quickly gaining an important consideration among the major music production facilities in the country, the Abruzzese Symphonic Orchestra has so far kept reaching over two thousand concerts in more than 30 years of uninterrupted activity, at a high artistic level. The orchestra often receives invitations to important musical events in Italy and abroad.
- Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco on Wikipedia
- Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Guitar Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 99 on allmusic.com
- Istituzione Sinfonica Abruzzese official website
- Guitar Concerto No.1, Op.99 (Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Mario) on the International Music Score Library Project website
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