Alessandro Marangoni follows his disc of the two piano concertos (9/12) with a first complete recording of Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Evangélion (‘The Story of Jesus’), music of an introspection in marked contrast to the all-the-fun-of-the-fair flamboyance of the concertos. Willing, like Villa-Lobos, to try his hand at anything, Castelnuovo-Tedesco was scarcely less prolific, his output during his Hollywood years encompassing virtually every imaginable genre.
Though he was Jewish, much of his music is centred on New Testament texts and the present 28-piece cycle takes us from ‘The Infancy’ to ‘The Passion’. There is a pronounced Spanish flavour (possibly deriving from the composer’s association with Segovia), though to claim that the writing is ‘dramatically virtuosic’ when not ‘profoundly introspective’ is stretching things. Slight when not periodically charming and engaging, there is little to compare with, say, Mompou’s religious distillation (his Música callada) or the opulent religious masterpieces of Liszt and Messiaen. ‘The Three Kings’ plod along in comically unceremonial style (though no comedy is intended); and although ‘The Woman of Samaria’ gives us an attractive forlane, there is too little to delight and surprise those looking for unusual encores. ‘Gethsemane’ is more lengthy than moving and a final burst of hymn-like joy in ‘The Resurrection’ comes too late to redeem music that fails to match or conjure its biblical inspiration. The performance is, however, suitably poised and devotional, and Naxos’s sound is excellent.