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Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (Composer, Arranger)

Born: April 3, 1895 - Florence, Italy
Died: March 16, 1968 - Beverly Hills, California, USA

The resprected Italian composer and teacher, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, was descended from a prominent banking family that had lived in Florence since the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492. Castelnuovo-Tedesco was first introduced to the piano by his mother, and he composed his first pieces when he was just 9 years old. After completing a degree in piano in 1914 under Edgardo Del Valle de Paz (1861-1920), well-known composer and pianist pupil of Beniamino Cesi, he began studying composition under renowned Italian composer Ildebrando Pizzetti, and received a diploma in composition in 1918.

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco soon came to the attention of composer and pianist Alfredo Casella, who included the young composers work in his repertoire. Alfredo Casella also ensured that Castelnuovo's works would be included in the repertoires of the Societa Nazionale di Musica (later the Corporazione delle Nuove Musiche), granting him exposure throughout Europe as one of Italy's up-and-coming young composers. Works by him were included in the first festival of the International Society of Contemporary Music, held in Salzburg, Austria, in 1922.

In 1926, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco premiered his opera La Mandragola, based on a play by Niccolò Machiavelli. It was the first of his many works inspired by great literature, and which included interpretations of works by Aeschylus, Virgil, John Keats, William Wordsworth, Walt Whitman, Miguel de Cervantes, Federico García Lorca, and especially William Shakespeare. Another major source of inspiration for him was his Jewish heritage, most notably the Bible and Jewish liturgy. His Violin Concerto No. 2 (1931), written at the request of Jascha Heifetz, was also an expression of his pride in his Jewish origins, or as he described it, the "splendor of past days," in the face of rising anti-Semitism that was sweeping across much of Europe.

At the 1932 festival of the International Society of Contemporary Music, held in Venice, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco first met the Spanish guitarist Andrés Segovia. The meeting inspired Castelnuovo-Tedesco to write his Guitar Concerto No. 1, one of the first of almost one hundred compositions for that instrument, which earned him the reputation as one of the foremost composers for the guitar in the 20th century. Later on, Castelnuovo-Tedesco composed many other guitar pieces dedicated to Andrés Segovia, who was enthusiast of his style.

The following year the Italian fascist government developed a program toward the arts, which were viewed as a tool for propaganda and promotion of racial ideas. Even before Mussolini officially adopted the Manifesto of Race in 1938, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco was banned from the radio and performances of his work were cancelled. The new racial laws, however, convinced him that he should leave Italy. He wrote to Arturo Toscanini, the former musical director of La Scala, who left Italy in 1933, explaining his plight, and Arturo Toscanini responded by promising to sponsor him as an immigrant in the USA. Castelnuovo-Tedesco left Italy in 1939, shortly before the outbreak of World War II.

In the meantime, he wrote his Cello Concerto in G minor, Op. 72, for Gregor Piatigorsky. It was premiered with the dedicatee under Arturo Toscanini in New York in 1935. For Piatigorsky he also wrote a Toccata (1935), and a piece called Greeting Card, Op. 170/3, based on the spelling of Piatigorsky’s name.

Like many artists who fled fascism, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco ended up in Hollywood, where, with the help of Jascha Heifetz, he landed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as a film composer. Over the next 15 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. It is generally thought that he actually composed more film music than he is credited with, and that he was often called upon to ghost-write film music for other composers who were under time constraints or had other difficulties completing their assignments.

Mario 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 are all his pupils. His relationship to 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 artform, much as opera was European. In the USA, he also composed new operas and works based on American poetry, Jewish liturgy, and the Bible. He died in Beverly Hills, California at the age of 72.


Sea Murmurs
Valse-Bluette, Op. 170 #24 written on Erick Friedman's name

Concerto da camera, Op. 146a

Variations à travers les siècles, Op. 71
Sonata Hommage à Boccherini, Op. 77
Capriccio Diabolico (Homage to Paganini), Op. 85a
Aranci in fiore, Op. 87a
Tarantella, Op. 87b
Variations plaisantes sur un petit air populaire, Op. 95
Rondò, Op. 129
Suite, Op. 133
Greeting Cards, Op. 170
Tre preludi mediterranei, Op. 176
Escarramán, Op. 177
Passacaglia, Op. 180
Platero y Yo, Op. 190
Tre preludi al Circeo, Op. 194
24 Caprichos de Goya, Op. 195
Appunti, Op. 210

Sonatina for Flute and Guitar, Op. 205
Sonata for Clarinet & Piano, Op. 128 [Rec:]
Eclogues, for flute, English horn & guitar, Op. 206
Guitar Quintet (String Quartet and Guitar), Op. 143
Fantasia for Piano and Guitar, Op. 145
Aria for Oboe, Cello and Guitar, Op. 146C, No. 3.
Morning in Iowa, for voice, accordion, banjo, clarinet, double bass, percussion
Fuga Elegiaca, for two guitars (dedicated to Evangelos & Liza Duo)

Overture: La bisbetica domata (The Taming of the Shrew) (1930)
Overture: La dodicesima notte (Twelfth Night) (1933)
Overture: Il mercante di Venezia (The Merchant of Venice) (1933)
Overture: Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesar) (1934)
Overture: Il racconto d'inverno (The Winter's Tale) (1935)
Overture: A Midsummer Night's Dream (1940)
Overture: King John (1941)
Overture: Antony and Cleopatra (1947)
Overture: The Tragedy of Coriolanus (1947)
Overture: Much Ado about Nothing (1953)
Overture: As You Like It (1953)

Violin Concerto No. 1
Violin Concerto No. 2, Op. 66 I Profeti (The Prophets; for Jascha Heifetz)
Concerto for Piano No. 1 in D major, Op. 46 (1927)
Cello Concerto in G minor, Op. 72 (1933; for Gregor Piatigorsky)
Guitar Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 99 (1939)
Guitar Concerto No. 2 in C major, Op. 160 (1953)
Concerto for Two Guitars, Op. 201 (1962)

La mandragola (1924)
The Merchant of Venice (1956)
The Importance of Being Earnest (1961)

Sei odi di Orazio (Six odes of Horatius) for voice and piano (1930)
Naomi and Ruth (1947)
The Divan of Moses Ibn Ezra, for soprano and guitar (1966)

Romancero gitano, for mixed choir & guitar, Op. 152

Source: Wikipedia Website (November 2011); IMDB Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (November 2011)

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Short Biography | Arrangements/Transcriptions: Works | Recordings

Links to other Sites

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (Wikipedia)
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (IMDB)
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco – Biography (AMG)

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (Composer John Beal)
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco - Bio (Naxos)
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco - A Guitar side profile (Just Classical Guitar)



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