Born into a family of bankers that had lived in Florence since the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968) studied under Pizzetti at the city’s Conservatoire. He soon became one of the leading members of the young Italian school, which broke with the tyranny of bel canto to return to the instrumental tradition of the Italian masters from the Baroque era.In 1928, Amédée-Landély Hettich, a vocal teacher in Paris, asked Castelnuovo-Tedesco to write a vocalise for the Répertoire moderne de Vocalises-Études, the publication of which he was supervising at Leduc. Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s contribution, entitled Vocalise-Étude for Medium Voice, became so popular that it was immediately transcribed several times over.The present adaptation for cello and piano, was created, with prior consent from the composer, by the famous Catalan cellist Gaspar Cassadó in 1930. The works opens with a poignant lamento that grieves the tragic fate of the Jewish people; it is followed by a folk dance whose ´´brisk and stubborn” movement marks, with panache, an imperious refusal to yield to resignation. The composer adopted the same proactive stance himself when in 1939, fleeing Mussolini’s antisemitic laws, he decided to emigrate to the United States, a land of refuge to which he would remain faithful until his death some thirty years later.
Born into a family that had lived in Florence since the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968) entertained only a distant relationship with the music he heard at synagogue. It was only when he discovered Schelemo, a rhapsody for cello and orchestra written in 1916 by Ernest Bloch, that he began to understand what ´´Jewish music” could be.In the mid-1920s, the young composer found a collection of prayers set to music among his maternal grandfather’s papers. Something clicked, and from then on, Jewish tradition would become a source of inspiration for Castelnuovo-Tedesco. In 1928, two years after publishing the Dances of King David, he wrote this Vocalise-Étude for medium voice and piano at the request of vocal teacher Amédée-Landély Hettich, who wanted to include it in the Répertoire moderne de Vocalises-Études published by Leduc. The piece became so popular that several instrumental adaptations were soon created, published under the title Chant hébraïque (for violin and piano: AL17 713; for cello and piano: AL 17196).Divided into three sections, this wordless melody opens with a ´´sad and impassioned” chant that appears to grieve the tragic fate of the Jewish people. A folk dance follows, in which a ´´lively and stubborn” movement has great panache. The third section returns to the initial poignant theme before briefly reiterating the dance motif, allowing the piece to conclude on a hopeful note. The composer himself would adopt this proactive stance, refusing to yield to resignation when, fleeing Mussolini’s anti-Semitic laws, he decided to emigrate in 1939 to the United States, a land of refuge to which he would remain faithful until his death some thirty years later.
1. Concerto in D:op. 99. Gitarre und Orchester. Klavierauszug mit Solostimme. Gitarren-Archiv Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco