Among Pizzetti’s pupils, the most distinguished was Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, scion of a Jewish banking family in Florence. The Sonata quasi una fantasia
, Op 56, was composed in 1929, with a dedication to the Hungarian violinist Adila Fachiri (who was also the dedicatee of Bartók’s two violin sonatas). The autograph manuscript formerly in Adila Fachiri’s collection is dated 30 October 1929, and it appears that she played the piece shortly afterwards: an announcement in The Times
(18 November 1929) stated that on Saturday (23 November), ‘Miss Adila Fachiri will give a violin recital (Wigmore Hall) at which she will play a new sonata by Castelnuovo-Tedesco’. However, it is likely that this didn’t take place as planned, since a subequent announcement appeared on 24 February 1930, promising the same ‘new sonata by Castelnuovo-Tedesco’ in Fachiri’s forthcoming Wigmore Hall concert on 1 March. This performance—possibly the work’s first—was reported by the Italian periodical Musica d’oggi
: ‘Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Sonata quasi una fantasia
has recently been played in London with excellent results by Adila Fachiri and the pianist Maurice Cole.’ Even though the sonata was published by Ricordi in 1930, it seems to have attracted little interest from performers. But after Castelnuovo-Tedesco was forced by rising anti-Semitism to flee Italy for the United States, he found this very piece being ridiculed in the journal Modern Music
as ‘a variegated assortment of left-over impressionisms, chord streams, lush moods, chinoiseries, and “motives”, thrown together in a half-baked manner’. This was an extraordinarily harsh verdict on a work that is both harmonically alluring and quite concise, lasting just over quarter of an hour.
The three linked movements are a Prologo marked Moderato e pensoso (ending with a magnificent flourish, with rising violin semiquavers and a double glissando in the piano), leading to the second movement, a lively Intermezzo, Vivace e danzante, with a slower central section, and finally an Epilogo, Calmo and marked cupo e grave (‘dark and serious’), which later returns to the tempo of the Prologo before a delicately coloured coda (with a fleeting reference to the Intermezzo) brings the work to a peaceful close.
from notes by Nigel Simeone © 2014