American Record Guide

(comparative review with Somm CD by Mark Bebbington)

The piano music of Castelnuovo-Tedesco is not played often these days. Except for the five-movement Piedigrotta and the all-too- brief ‘Alt Wien’ there is no duplication between the two releases. The Bebbington was reviewed in these pages as Somm 32 (N/D 2004). Margaret Barela praised Bebbington for his “strength and flexibility”, and found the music lovely. I concur.

These days Castelnuovo-Tedesco has accu¬mulated a fair representation in the catalog, enough to refer to him as a master who joined many others in finding an alternate universe in Hollywood in the golden age of the motion picture and the insanity of a Europe at war.

Soldano gives us a little more of the film capital with the charming Notturno in Hollywoood and 2 Film Etudes (‘Charlie’ and ‘Mickey Mouse’). Before you head for the door I must tell you that had I not mentioned the titles you would not have identified them—certainly not any more than Koechlin’s similar efforts on behalf of cinema stars. Once you listen to them, you can see how well their spirit is captured— at least to the extent that pure music can capture anything. Starts and stops, shifting rhythms, melodic fragmentation—all delightfully presented.

‘Alt Wien’ is one part of a triptych that that describes the dance history of Vienna. Bebbington included all three movements. It may remind you of La Valse, but ‘Alt Wien’ was written the year before. The fairy tale-like Vitalba e Biancospino and Cantico have an overlay of Impressionism, as does much of the music here, and Sonatina Zoologica in its first recording takes us to a world of ‘Dragonflies’, ‘Snails’ (with its sly reference to Tristan, ‘Lizards’ and ‘Ants’—all described with humor and aplomb. This claims to be their first recording, and they are an enjoyable, self- indulgent musical romp.

Cielo di September is the composer’s official first piece and was written in 1910 before formal training, but there is nothing amateurish about it. Once again the texture is impressionist.

Piedigrotta 1924, Rapsodia Napoletana is in five movements and has an often cheeky ambiance. Both pianists capture the composer’s sense of humor well, but Soldano has the added benefit of approving dragonflies and lizards everywhere. He definitely relishes all of the peculiarities of the composer’s writing. Great sound and praiseworthy notes.
Alan Becker

—Alan Becker