Born in Florence, this composer descended from a family of jewish bankers who came to Italy from Spain. Castelnuovo was born and brought up in the Italian province of Tuscany and began composing at the age of only nine. In 1915 he began study with Ildebrando Pizzetti, one of the most influential teachers in Italy at the time. He also came to the notice of pianist and composer Alfredo Casella, who was an early proponent of his music, programming it in his recitals and promoting it in his many writings on new music. Castelnuovo was a successful pianist, performing as soloist, accompanist and chamber musician, and was involved in the formation of the Società Nazionale di Musica (later Società Italiana di Musica Moderna), along with Pizzetti, Casella, Gian Francesco Malipiero, Ottorino Respighi, Vittorio Gui and Vincenzo Tommasini (all, apart from Respighi, practically vanished from concert programs; one might almost be forgiven for thinking that Italian composition ceased for around 30 years after Puccini's death, although in fact the country was very active).
In 1938, Castelnuovo was forced by the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Italy to flee to America, where he soon found work as a composer of film music for MGM Studios. He contributed to over 200 films and at the same time somehow found time to write concert music, although he evidently found the experience of leaving his homeland shattering. In time, he became one of Los Angeles' most sought-after composition teachers, with pupils including John Williams, Henry Mancini and André Previn, the latter commenting that 'pupil of Castelnuovo-Tedesco' was virtually a requirement for young composers to be accepted at the studios. Apart from being admired as a composer, he was held in the highest esteem as a friend by all who knew him; his cataloguer Nick Rossi, for instance, commented, 'Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco was not only the kindest and most generous person I have ever known, he was also the most brilliant.'
Castelnuovo's catalogue extends to opus 208 or thereabouts - not to mention works without opus number - including operas (one on 'The Merchant of Venice', another, 'Saùl', concertos for various instruments (his second violin concerto, subtitled 'I Profeti', commissioned by Heifetz), chamber music for many different combinations of instruments, ballet scores, oratorios and cantatas, nearly 300 solo songs with piano plus many more with guitar.
It is perhaps not so hard to see why Castelnuovo's music has not been more successful. At a time when to be anything but 'progressive' was a mortal sin in the arts, he must have appeared reactionary (writing tunes in the 1940s and '50s!) and therefore, by implication, sterile.
Now that we have lost our horror of melody he is due for rediscovery and rehabilitation. Castelnuovo of course understood the pressures of modernism, as he made clear in this quote from an interview, which is also a beautifully succinct summary of his artistic creed:
'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). Yet music should not discard what was contributed by preceding generations. Every means of expression can be useful and just, if it is used at the opportune moment (through inner necessity rather than through caprice or fashion). 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.'
"The music I am presenting in this production represents a typical trend of this period: the fusion of different musical genres. The abundance of communications and the speed of circulation of information that characterizes our epoch brought about the fall of the walls that for a long time have kept musicians and audiences separated. between the cold intellectuality of contemporary music and the cold precision of techno music many new forms are developing which draw freely from past and present languages; from classical and popular tradition.
The four composers I present are atypical for classical repertoire and even if very different from each other, all of them hold a borderline position between written and improvised music."
Works by Leo Brouwer
About Leo Brouwer
Leo Brouwer, a composer, guitarist, percussionist and conductor, was born in Havana (Cuba) in 1939. Young Leo's father, Juan Brouwer, was a doctor and an amateur guitarist. Leo first learned music from his father and his aunt, Caridad Mezquida. His great-uncle was the well-known composer and pianist Ernesto Lecuona. Leo began playing the guitar himself at age 13. His first significant teacher was Isaac Nicola, a virtuoso guitarist who also composed for his instrument and arranged the music of others for guitar. Leo completed his musical studies in the United States, first at the Juillard School of Music and subsequently at the Department of Music of Hartford University. He was only 17 when he made his own professional debut. Early compositions include Prelude (1956) and Fugue (1959), both influenced by Bela Bartok and Igor Stravinsky.
After completing his music education, Brouwer returned to Cuba. There he immediately became a major figure in his country's music establishment. From 1960 to 1961 he was the Music Advisor to the National Radio and Television Company in Havana. In 1960, Brouwer became Director of the Instituto Cubano de Arte e Industria Cinematograficos [Cuban Institute of Film Arts and Industry]. That position is one of the reasons that the composer has written more than 30 film scores, some of which were box-office hits around the world. Brouwer was also a Professor of Composition at the Conservatorio Nacional [National Conservatory] from 1961-67.
Leo Brouwer's enormous influence on guitar music in particular and classical music in general is demonstrated by more than a hundred recordings on which he has played, composed or conducted. Brouwer's compositions reflect classical, Afro-Cuban, jazz and avant-garde influences. His many film scores have brought his music to the attention of a huge audience around the world. Brouwer's influence in his native country results in part from the important positions he has held in Cuban music institutions.
As a composer, Brouwer has not limited himself to music for guitar. He also has an extensive catalogue of symphonic, chamber and instrumental works, including music for solo cello, piano, percussion, a flute concerto, a harp concerto. As a conductor, Brouwer is well-traveled and has been much appreciated by his audiences. Among the ensembles he has led are the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Scottish National Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Chamber Orchestra and the Mexico National Symphony Orchestra. Brouwer has been General Manager of the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra for ten years. Since 1992 he has led the Orquesta de Cordoba. He is also founder and director of the Cuban Guitar Competition and Festival, held every other year, and founder and director of the Orquesta de Cordoba [Cordoba Orchestra], an accomplished symphony orchestra in the Andalusia region of Spain.
Brouwer enjoys arranging the classical and popular music of other composers for classical guitar. He has arranged Scott Joplin's The Entertainer and Elite Syncopations for solo guitar. His recorded Beatles arrangements include an album entitled From Yesterday to Penny Lane: Seven Songs After The Beatles (1994).