With the friendship and inspiration of Andrés Segovia, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968) composed almost 100 works for guitar. Educated in his native Florence, Castelnuovo-Tedesco first met Segovia at a festival in Venice in 1932 and composed a new work for the legendary guitarist almost every year afterwards. The composer fled Mussolini’s Italy in 1939, stopping in New York for a year before moving to Los Angeles and beginning a fresh career as a film composer (his students included Jerry Goldsmith, Henry Mancini, André Previn, Nelson Riddle, and John Williams).
Castelnuovo-Tedesco composed his Guitar Quintet in less than a month early in 1950, in response to a request for a chamber work for Segovia to play for the Music Guild of Los Angeles. Segovia premiered the work here a year later with the Paganini Quartet. “It is a melodious and serene work, partly neo-classic and partly neo-romantic (like most of my works),” the composer wrote. “I would say, it is written almost in a Schubertian vein – Schubert has always been one of my favorite composers.
“The first of the four movements, Allegro vivo e schietto, is in the regular sonata-allegro form. The second movement, Andante mesto, is of a lyrical character, with Spanish undertones (the second theme is marked ‘Souvenir d’Espagne’). The third movement, Allegro con spirito alla Marcia, is a Scherzo with two Trios. The last movement, Allegro con fuoco, is in rondo form, very brilliant and contrapuntal – again the second theme is in a Spanish mood – what could be more appropriate for Andrés Segovia?”
- John Henken is Director of Publications for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association.