BBC Music Magazine



Violin Concerto No. 3; String Trio; Sonata for Violin and Cello

Davide Alogna (violin), Federico Stassi (viola), Roberto Trainini (cello), Fiorenzo Pascalucci (piano)

Naxos 8.574003 78:21 mins

Cut off from his Italian/ Jewish roots and culture, Mario Castelnuov­otedesco once referred to his experience of emigration to America as like ‘a

dress rehearsal for death’. The music presented here, composed in the decade following his flight from Fascist Italy in 1939, tells an exactly opposite story. Conservati­ve in style, these pieces are written with such lyricism and enjoyment for the task that their dimensions can get a little out of hand: the Sonata for Violin and Cello, one of numerous chamber works sparked into life by congenial musical gatherings in Los Angeles, bubbles away for nearly 35 minutes. Since the composer’s day job, aside from teaching, was writing brief cues for ★ollywood films, you can understand his itch to luxuriate.

Even when material is stretched thinly, the lyrical flow in these works – all unpublishe­d, and previously unrecorded – remains irresistib­le, especially in these passionate Italian performanc­es, captured in resonant acoustics. Castelnuov­o-tedesco’s command of instrument­al resources is always impressive. The varied string registers are imaginativ­ely exploited; while the unusual ‘concerto’ written for Jascha ★eifetz, who never played it, easily conjures a grandiloqu­ent orchestral tapestry, cadenza and all, just from the gestures of violin and piano.

The work’s finale, spiced with a few jazz rhythms, marks the only point where the American scene enters; the entire piece was designed as a musical recreation of the composer’s experience­s as an emigrant sailing into New York in 1939. Otherwise, traditions of the old world rule. Deep in his heart, his musical heart, Castelnuov­otedesco never left Italy at all.

Geoff Brown



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