20th century romantic serialism: the Opus 170 greeting cards of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco

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Asbury, David S.

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Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Opus 170 Greeting Cards is a cycle of 51 pieces that span the last two decades of the composer’s life. Intended as musical gifts for his friends and colleagues, he devised a system for assigning each note in the alphabet two musical counterparts using ascending and descending chromatic scales and wrote works that derive their principal themes from the recipient’s name or names. The Greeting Cards are scored for a variety of solo instrument and duo settings, 20 of which were written for the guitar and are the primary focus of this treatise that will have format consisting of Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s biography, an overview of Opus 170 and an examination of specific works. The opus 170 Greeting Cards offer insight into the stylistic traits that characterize Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s music and historical perspective regarding many of the world’s leading musicians from the 1950’s and 1960’s. Research for the treatise has included investigation of published and non-published materials, interviews with those recipients who are still living and musical analysis of the select representative works. Castelnuovo-Tedesco was one the most influential and important musicians of the 20th century. His legacy as a composer and teacher is one that has been largely overlooked in modern scholarship where the common practice of atonal serial composition dominated all other musical styles, especially in academic circles. Castelnuovo-Tedesco always maintained tonal frameworks and a melodic lyricism in his music that in turn caused critics to dismiss him as being unworthy of serious consideration. This treatise, through the examination of one element of the composers work, seeks to help change a general perception that his style, through its conservatism, lacked currency and inventiveness. The Greeting Cards have to date not been studied collectively, leaving a formidable gap in our understanding of the compositional mechanisms employed by this influential and important composer.