Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco

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“I have never believed in modernism, or in neoclassicism, or any other isms… I believe that music is a form of language capable of progress and renewal (and I myself believe that I have a feeling for the contemporary and, therefore, am sufficiently modern). (…) The simplest means are generally the best. I believe that my personality was formed to a decisive degree quite early, but what I have sought to do, during my artistic evolution, has been to express myself with means always simpler and more direct, in a language always clearer and more precise.”

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedeso (1895-1968) was born in a prominent family of Firenze, Italy. He was early on a successful pianist, both as a soloist and as a chamber musician. He was involved in the formation of the “Società Nazionale di Musica”, and works of his were included in the first festival of the “International Society of Contemporary Music” in Salzburg 1922. At a later festival Castelnuovo met the great spanish guitarist Andrés Segovia, who inspired him to write his first guitar concerto-the first of almost one hundred compositions for the guitar.

Castelnuovo was definitely “premiere league”: one of his violin concertos was dedicated to and premiered by Jascha Heifetz, and a cello concerto premiered by Gregor Piatigorsky under Toscanini.

Even before the war, Castelnuovo’s music was banned from the radio stations due to racist laws. In 1939 Toscanini helped him to immigrate to the United States, where he then was under contract with MGM in Hollywood. He wrote the scores to over 200 films, and with time he became one of Los-Angeles’ most sought-after composition teachers with pupils such as John Williams, Henry Mancini, and André Previn.

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