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Bob Briggs
MusicWeb International, October 2009

CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO, M.: Music for Two Guitars, Vol. 1 (Brasil Guitar Duo) – Sonatina canonica / Les guitares bien temperees: Nos. 1–12 8.570778

CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO, M.: Music for Two Guitars, Vol. 2 (Brasil Guitar Duo) – Fuga elegiaca / Les guitares bien temperees: Nos. 13–24 8.570779

The Sonatina Canonica is a pleasant miniature, which fills the time. It’s delightful but without depth. But what else would you want from such a piece? After a short time you don’t really notice that you’re listening to canonic writing, and the mind can simply enjoy the interplay between the instruments.

Fuga elegiaca was one of the composer’s final works, and it is in two parts—Prelude and Fugue. The Prelude is probably the most sheerly joyous music on both CDs; it’s a roller-coaster ride and sets the scene for a more solemn, but not too much so, fugue. This is a delight. In a way, I wish that there could have been more music like this here.

Les Guitares Bien Tempérées is a much more serious work, by which I mean that it is not light in the way that the Sonatina is light. These pieces are not primarily for entertainment, but there is much music here which is truly enjoyable. I would never have thought that it was possible to get so much variety from two guitars. Castelnuovo-Tedesco fills his pieces with every emotion imaginable, from pathos to, almost, belly laugh (is that an emotion?) There are light and breezy pieces, serious inventions, dance type pieces—very holiday advertisement time—and all this wide variety of invention adds up to a very satisfying and pleasurable whole…if you’re into the guitar, then you’ll lap up every minute of these discs.

Kenneth Keaton
American Record Guide, March 2009

This is wonderful music. It’s obviously inspired by Bach, though it is not neobaroque. Like Bach, he has a delightful capacity to imbue the academic form of the fugue with an intense lyricism. Some of the preludes (also like Bach) are not melodies but rhythms and textures, exploring the nature of the key without needing a tune. Others have the most haunting melodies, which then inspire the subject of the following fugue. And each pair is distinct—there is never a sense of formula, only invention and imagination. The other work, described by the composer as “a small work without pretensions” is the Sonatina Canonica. As the title implies, each movement is filled with canonic imitation, mostly at the unison or octave. Only the composer’s melodic gifts save that structure from predictability. It’s actually rather hard to bring off unless the duo is especially sensitive and fleet.

The Brazil Guitar Duo is all this and more. It would be hard to imagine a better performance, unless one could hear the dedicatees, Ida Presti and Alexander Lagoya (Presti died in 1967, before the work was published). This is one of the few guitar duos I’ve seen where the players were not either related or married, but that doesn’t keep them from absolute unanimity in playing. Their sounds are distinct—they make no attempt to sound like the same player. They both have a gorgeous tone, rock-solid rhythm, beautiful phrasing, and no identifiable technical flaws. This is great playing. This is wonderful music played at the highest interpretive level—one can only hope Volume 2 is soon to appear. [It has on Naxos 8.570779 – Ed]

James Manheim, February 2009

The Sonata Canonica, Op. 196, by the prolific Italian-American composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, has opened many a duo-guitar recital. It's a pleasant neo-classic romp that's over in 10 minutes, with the lively use of counterpoint implied by the title. Not so common, or so easily programmed, is another Castelnuovo-Tedesco work from the early '60s, Les Guitares Bien Tempérées, Op. 199, a set of 24 preludes and fugues for two guitars, inspired by Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier. Castelnuovo-Tedesco's preludes and fugues, unlike other sets written in homage to Bach, are arranged not in scalar sequence but in minor-major pairs a fifth apart, beginning with G minor and ending with C major. They're also exceptional in that they can be classified as light music. The dominant spirit is playfulness, and this emerges most of all, oddly enough, in the fugues. Each one has something unexpected. Perhaps a long, complex theme will be recovered piecemeal for its subsequent appearances, or perhaps it will be derived, seemingly impossibly, from that of its corresponding prelude. The preludes itself are quite a varied lot, with effects such as flamenco rhythms and harmonics introduced in an unobtrusive way. There is logic to the whole set, but individual pieces could be included on any recital tracing Bach's influence and would contribute something unusual to it. The performance by the youthful Brasil Guitar Duo is clean and sensitive to the fun of the music, and the engineers avoid putting the listener too close to the players in the live environment of suburban Toronto's St. John Chrysostom Church. A pleasant guitar release that will insinuate itself into your playpile.

John Sunier
Audiophile Audition, November 2008

Italian composer Castelnuovo-Tedesco was introduced to Andres Segovia in 1932 and as a result ended up composing over one hundred works for the guitar, of which his WT two guitars is one of his masterpieces. Inspired by Bach’s WTC, the composer organized his own preludes and fugues using major and minor keys in a cycle of rising fifths. He also wrote the work as a sort of diary recording his moods and attitudes during this time. Having the two guitars offers some of the same control of the different melodic lines as Bach had on the double-manual harpsichord.

The Sonatina Canonica shares with the WT Guitars an emphasis on counterpoint.  The three contrasting movements have lyrical as well as humorous passages. Sonics are first rate, and the interplay of the two guitars is a delight if you are situated properly between your speakers or listening on headphones.  There is also an extra of a free downloadable track by the guitar duo.  The note booklet gives you a code which you enter on the Naxos web site to download a performance of the first movement of Sor’s Divertissement Op. 38.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2008

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s name is so linked with the Spanish influences of his Guitar Concerto, that it comes as something of a surprise to discover he was Italian.

Born in Florence in 1895, he earned his early living as a child prodigy performer, but increasingly turned to composition, becoming so prolific that even today much of his output has never been published. Though it is often inferred that inspiration had begun to wane before the age of 30, he continued writing at an ever increasing rate, the indifferent critical reaction to these later works tending to divert attention from the masterpieces of his younger years. After spending the Second World War as a film composer in Hollywood, he returned to Italy for extended periods, his interest in guitar music germinated on hearing the legendary guitarist, Andres Segovia, and as a result he was to write over a hundred scores for the instrument. This new release offers music from the 1960s, with the short three-movement Sonata Canonica—whichalmost comes into the category of light music—and Les Guitares Bien Temperées (The Well-Tempered Guitars). Itwas his affectionate response to Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, and here we have just the first twelve preludes and fugues, and though in outline looking back, the music is attractively modern and at times distinctively jazzy. The Ninth prelude must surely be one of the most bitter-sweet melodies ever composed for guitar. The disc is performed by the Brasil Guitar Duo of Joao Luiz and Douglas Lora, and you need go no further than the opening of the Sonata to hear their razor-sharp articulation. Always ideally balanced, they weave the intricate fabric of The Well-Tempered Guitars to produce the most gorgeous sound. Superb sound quality.

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