“Everyone has such a tale or legend in his heart –
Something he’s heard of, something he has dreamed,
Some grief or glory private to himself –
A childhood memory and a loneliness.”
Robert Nathan, Morning In Iowa (1944)
Angelo Montanaro | Clarinet & Saxophone
Giorgio Dellarole | Accordion
Lorenzo Micheli | Guitar
Daniele De Pascalis | Double Bass
Daniele Vineis | Percussion
Massimo Felici | Conductor & Banjo
n 2005, Lorenzo Micheli and I released our recording of the three Concertos for guitar and orchestra by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, which was for both of us the second important disc fully dedicated to the Florentine composer in our personal discographies. That same year, four decades following the death of Castelnuovo-Tedesco, the long-awaited autobiography “Una vita di musica” (“A Musical Life”), compiled in Italian by Castelnuovo-Tedesco throughout his lifetime, finally came to light.
Until then, we had never heard about “Morning in Iowa” – Incidental music on a poem by Robert Nathan, op. 158, which was mentioned in the catalogue accompanying the autobiography, and to which Castelnuovo-Tedesco dedicated an entire chapter. As soon as Lorenzo located the manuscript and obtained permission to publish and perform the work, I eagerly began planning the production features.
Meanwhile, I became involved in directing and producing a small, but distinguished chamber music festival in Monopoli, Italy (an ancient, beautiful town on the sea a few miles south of Bari), called “Ritratti” (“Portraits”). Founded through the enthusiastic initiative of a handful of young musicians from the South of Italy, especially the pianist Antonia Valente, who passionately led the project from the very beginning, the festival has been increasing in importance and scope through the present time, involving every year famous guest artists working together with young musicians.
The first edition of the Festival took place in August 2005, and thus the Ensemble ’05 was born.
“…the land has something to say.”
Three years later, Lorenzo and I finally started earnest to work on “Morning in Iowa”.
Accidentally, just as the characters in Nathan’s story, the performing group was born from the meeting of people coming from diverse, distant regions of Italy. Most significantly, the remarkable accordion interpretation (“Mary Hilda was all New England…”) by the “northerner” Giorgio Dellarole, whose interaction with the outstanding talent of Angelo Montanaro, our young “southern” clarinetist (“Young Kit Vance was from Colorado…”), created an exceptional entente, all supported by the versatile Daniele De Pascalis (“Connor of Kansas, going home that night…”) on double bass.
Since musical direction was necessary, and the guitar part obviously belonged to Lorenzo, I earned the responsability of conducting the ensemble, particularly given my knowledge and passion for Castelnuovo- Tedesco’s music (I have to admit I had never touched a banjo before!). We just needed the perfect narrator, and couldn’t have been more fortunate than to get David for this role; he is primarly a musician — and a great one, at that! — not an actor; he truly loves poetry, and deeply feels the enchantment of American landscapes, the epic nature of such a journey; so, despite his British origin, his understanding of the text and his warm, charming voice suited perfectly to the verses of Nathan.
“Morning in Iowa” was premiered during the 4th edition of “Ritratti” Festival (2008), entitled “La Musica dell’Esilio” (“Music out of Exile”), celebrating the 40th anniversary of the death of Mario Castelnuovo- Tedesco: works by Falla, Milhaud, Schönberg, Bartók, Stravinskij and other “exiles” were included in the program of the Festival; the ensemble that performed in Monopoli on August 8th was formed by the same musicians appearing in this recording, with the only exception of the percussionist Leonardo Losciale, now replaced by Daniele Vineis; the recording sessions were accomplished in 2010, after a few performances throughout Europe.
So, this is it: after a seven-year-long journey, the first recording by the Ensemble ’05 is affectionately dedicated to Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, the Florentine gentleman who never had the chance to listen to a complete performance of this work during his lifetime, who, suspended between two worlds, was an artist who expressed so well the character of modern Italian music in the early 20th-century, and whose students, including André Previn, Henry Mancini, John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, and many more, represent his priceless legacy to a whole generation of American composers.
“…above all, I find it amusing to show to my American colleagues
that, if I choose, I can be and sound more American than Americans!”
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Una vita di musica (1955)
Massimo Felici, Monopoli (August 4, 2012)