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Composer Spotlight: Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco

In this weekend’s concert, Coro y Guitarra, the Phoenix Chorale will be performing some of the great work created by composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. We wanted to highlight this composer’s amazing life story filled with resilience and determination to find freedom from persecution and censorship.

Born 1895 in Florence, Italy, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco is a descendant of a family of Spanish Jewish bankers, who were forced out of Spain into Italy in 1492. During which time, their original surname, Castilla Nueva, was “Italianised.”

Tedesco’s Jewish heritage was a great influence for his music. His Violin Concerto No. 2 (1931) expressed his pride and reminisced on Judaism before anti-Semitism swept across Europe. In addition to these works, he wrote nearly 100 guitar compositions- quickly making Tedesco very popular in Italy.

Unfortunately, the growing anti-Semitism in Italy in 1938 led to the ban of Tedesco’s music. The composer’s work was no longer played on the radio and all performances were forced to be canceled by the Italian government, which was led by Fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini. The Italian government also enacted racial laws that year- a set of laws enforcing discrimination on Italian Jews. This made it nearly impossible for Tedesco to continue creating music and so he wrote to fellow composer and U.S. resident Arturo Toscanini, seeking assistance to flee Italy.

In the summer of 1939, Tedesco and his family successfully immigrated to America. Tedesco’s success skyrocketed once he moved to California and signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer –where he spent 15 years composing nearly 200 film scores.

One movie classic that Tedesco had a chance to work on was Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde in 1941, starring Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman, and Lana Turner. Later, he was hired at other Hollywood studios including: Columbia, Universal, Warner Brothers, 20th-Century Fox and CBS.

Furthermore, Tedesco contributed to American art by composing over 70 concert works, including the Romancero Gitano, Opus 152 in 1951, which is part of the Coro y Guitarra concert program this weekend.

Written by Kiana Jones, Marketing & Communications Intern.

Coro y Guitarra concert info >

Aransay, C. F. (2008). Romancero Gitano, Op 152. Retrieved from Hyperion:

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. (2017, March 2). Retrieved from Wikipedia:

Westby, J. (2017, March 2). Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Mario. Retrieved from Oxford Music Online: