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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lots of delightful music here. Don't miss this disc!, 19 July 2012
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This review is from: Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Piano Concertos Nos. 1/ 2 F-B (Naxos: 8.572823) (Audio CD)
As a composer of concert music (he also scored many films) Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968) is best known for his First Guitar Concerto, a work which, in the days of L.P., would invariably be coupled with Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez". The two piano concertos are less well known. They are both, however, delightful and thoroughly enjoyable works which I can confidently recommend.

If you know the Guitar Concerto you will know what to expect. The piano concertos are tuneful and unpretentious though they are more developed and extended than the Guitar Concerto. There is a Romantic spirit underpinning this music but it definitely belongs to the twentieth century. There is more than a dash of neoclassicism. Counterpoint, however, is used decoratively or to propel the music as each new idea is combined with its predecessor. There is also a suggestion of Impressionism, particularly in the slow movement of the Second Concerto. Some of the piano figuration in the finale of this concerto will remind you of Falla's "Nights in the Gardens of Spain". The harmonies are piquant with much parallel writing for the woodwind. Major and minor mode versions of the same material are often juxtaposed.

In general, the transparent orchestration highlights colours rather than blends them. The soloist is kept busy but is very much "primus inter pares": in fast movements especially the melodic line is often in the orchestra while the piano provides a commentary. These concertos are tightly organised but very fluidly written so that structural signposts are not emphasised. There is no trace of academicism and, above all, the music is never dull.

The First Concerto (1927) is an emotionally straightforward piece written, the notes say, "in a spirit of optimism and ebullience". The "highlight" of the first movement is the lovely transformation, beginning at 6 mins 1 sec, of the chunky main theme into a reverie led by a solo 'cello. The triple time slow movement is built on an attractive modal tune which is continuously varied. The marchlike finale follows without a break. Again what will impress you most in this movement will be C-T's ceaseless flow of captivating invention.

The slow movement and finale of the Second Concerto (1936/37) which, though it was published, exists only in manuscript after the plates were lost almost certainly during the 1966 flood of the River Arno in Florence, are, according to the blurb on the jewel case, "tinged with bleak moments of sombre agitation, suggestive of unfolding tragic events with the imminent introduction of the Fascist Racial laws that led C-T to seek exile in the USA in 1939." Well, maybe, but I'm not sure that C-T, essentially a craftsman composer, was interested in reflecting political events in his music and I did not feel that the mood of the Second Concerto was significantly different from that of the First. The first movement is built on an emphatic main theme and some attractive subsidiary material. By the end the tunes are deftly combined. The slow movement's main theme is given to the horn and then the strings. After a cadenza for the soloist a lovely new theme is introduced at 3 mins 20 secs. Again the finale follows without a break. Its skittish main theme is eventually followed by a more serious tune at 3 mins 32 secs. In both these movements C-T's resourcefulness in the treatment of his material seems limitless.

Both concertos receive excellent performances and the recording is suitably vivid.

C-T was always fascinated by Shakespeare and this disc concludes with four dances from "Love's Labour's Lost", here receiving their first performances. As always, these are tuneful and colourful. They are essentially light music of course but form a most engaging conclusion to a disc which should on no account be missed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The playing throughout is excellent, 26 Feb 2013
This review is from: Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Piano Concertos Nos. 1/ 2 F-B (Naxos: 8.572823) (Audio CD)
After the two wonderful discs of Castelnuovo-Tedesco's Shakespeare Overtures this disc made little impression on me, well that was at first, as once I had played it a few times it had certainly grown on me!
The Piano concertos have ten years between them, the first dates from 1927, and I find it the most attractive of the two, it is in G minor and lasts just under a half an hour. It is romantic in outlook and quite reminiscent of his famous Guitar Concerto, although it does pre-date it by some twelve years, it also has a taste of Rodrigo, especially in the opening movement. On the other hand, the Second Concerto which dates from 1937 is more virtuosic than the first, it is also the more romantic of the two, it's central slow movement, which contains some sensitive music and which is tinged with a sense of melancholia, being the highlight for me!
The four dances receive their first performance here and reflect the composer's love of Shakespeare, and while they do not have the intensity of the overtures, they contain some really fine and expressive music, and are well worth investigating.
The playing throughout is excellent, with both soloist and ensemble making a strong case for the composer and his music. The brief notes are well informed and the recorded sound is good. This disc improves with age, the more you play it the better it becomes, and is well worth the investment!
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