Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968) was Italian, and one of the foremost guitar composers in the 20th century. In 1939 he went to the US and became a composer for MGM Studios, working on some 200 Hollywood films. He was an influence on other film composers, including Henry Mancini, Nelson Riddle and André Previn, and Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams were his pupils.
That’s your history lesson; what’s the music like? While a lot is made of his Hollywood links, this doesn’t sound like film music; it’s technical but romantic, and always easy to listen to. This is true even for the first piece, Nocturne In Hollywood, which examines a world between wakefulness and dreaming, and is rather beautiful. (The first section reminded us in places of the BBC’s Going Home music).
Two Film Studies Op.67 is inspired by Chaplin (Charlie) and Mouse (Mickey), but again, as with the previously mentioned piece, it’s the characters, nonchalant and tragic, and amiable and transparent, that inspire rather than any scenes they might be in.
While the music might not be filmic it does contain lots of catchy melodic sections: Alt Wien Rapsodia Viennese Op.30 could be the music for a silent but dramatic film; it was in fact written for Winnaretta Singer, widow of Prince Edmond de Polignac, and inspired by the hedonistic life of the island of Brijuni.
It’s not “heavy” classical piano, no matter how complex the composition may be. This is possibly because, despite his talent, Tedesco was inspired by the outside world more than any inner dialogue. Vitalba e Biancospino, Fiaba Silvana Op.21 was written after he went for a walk among pine-trees, and was told a tale of a fairy and a wood-elf. Sonatina Zoologica Op.187 is inspired by animals and his own childhood, running carefree in the countryside.
Soldano is a marvellous pianist and the music seems to flow from his fingers like water. The late Aldo Ciccolini began the project of promoting Tedesco’s work and Soldano was one of his last pupils, so perhaps it’s a labour of love.
Out on Divine Art, DDA 25152.