Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968), to the extent that he is remembered at all, is probably best known for film music, or some of his guitar music, or for the fact that he was a teacher of Henry Mancini, André' Previn and John Williams. Born in Tuscany, taught composition by Ildebrando Pizzetti--now, there's a composer whose music deserves more attention!--he was forced to leave Italy and come to the United States in 1938 during the rise of anti-Semitism in the Mussolini era. He settled in southern California and wrote film scores (e.g. 'Gaslight') for many years. He was prolific but most of his music has been pretty much forgotten. Naxos has recently recorded, as part of its project to record American Jewish music, a CD of his religious music; I liked that release rather more than this one. In fifty years of concert-going I've only heard one piece of his, the concerto for two guitars.
This disc, performed by pianist Jordi Masó', consists of a number of early and fairly short character pieces of modest musical value. Skillfully written in a gentle post-impressionist style, they often come across as improvisational; indeed Castelnuovo-Tedesco was noted for his skill as an improviser at the piano. There is a charming collection of 'Five Little Waltzes' that one can imagine having a life, singly, as encores. In particular I liked No. 3 of the set, 'Un poco malinconico,' with its off-kilter harmonies and No. 4, 'Serenamente - quasi campestre,' a shy serenade.
Mas'ó is an expert exponent of this music, playing in an unforced but confident style. A Spanish pianist, it is interesting that he sometimes manages to imbue some of the music with a Spanish inflection, particularly so in the first and longest piece on the CD, 'Cipressi' ('Cypresses'), but this is due partly to the composer's tendency to use charactistic Spanish turns at cadences. Perhaps this is due to Castelnuovo-Tedesco's Sephardic heritage.