Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895–1968) was a Sephardic Jew born in the Catholic society that was Italy, and while he certainly absorbed the culture of Florence, he also was influenced by Jewish history and tradition. His ancestors were expelled from Spain in 1492 and settled at that time in Florence. Imagine the irony the composer felt when he and his family had to leave Italy in 1939 because of the anti-Semitism of the Fascist regime. He came to America, and became a U.S. citizen in 1946, settling in Hollywood along with so many other refugees. He wrote a number of film scores, and was employed by MGM.

His music has always shown influences of both his Spanish and Jewish dual heritages, and of course once he started working in the film industry he absorbed various American musical idioms as well. Most of the music on this disc, though, comes from the period prior to his emigration. Only the Notturno in Hollywood and Sonatina Zoologica were composed in America. The latter is a charming depiction of dragonflies, snails, lizards, and ants.

In fact, “charming” is a word that applies to a great deal of the music here. It is not surprising that the composer was a success in Hollywood. His ear for colors and his ability to create pictures with his music is apparent throughout. His Film Études were composed in 1931, long before he could have envisioned composing film scores. One is dedicated to Charlie Chaplin, and one to Mickey Mouse. Both will bring a smile to your face.

Alfonso Soldano gives the music good, solid performances. It is possible to imagine a wider palette of colors and a more vigorous rhythmic flair, but it is just as possible to imagine lesser degrees of both qualities. Soldano clearly believes in this music and makes a persuasive case for it. The recorded sound is natural and warm. The helpful and informative notes are poorly translated into English. Companies should really engage people whose native language is the one into which they are translating. It would make for easier reading. Nonetheless, this is a very attractive disc with some very nice discoveries.

—Henry Fogel