Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco in Florence: The Formative Years
When Edgardo Del Valle de Paz became aware of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s strong interest in composition, he entrusted his young student to Gino Modona (1871-1952), so that he could start to learn harmony and counterpoint. Modona was a kind, cultured, and refined teacher, who made his student fall in love with the music of Debussy, Ravel and Puccini. “With a conspiratorial smile, he showed me how forbidden fifths and consecutive sevenths sounded beautiful when used by Puccini and Debussy, his favorite composers! He wouldn’t make me waste too much time on figured bass, but preferred to move on to new music with me, and above all, to let me compose with harmonic freedom! It was Modona who opened my eyes to French Impressionism [...]: Debussy’s Jardins sous la pluie and La soirée dans Grénade, and then, little by little as they were published, all the Preludes and the bewitching art songs; of Ravel, first his exquisite Sonatine, then Gaspard de la nuit and Miroirs. A whole world revealed itself to me, a world that corresponded exactly with my aspirations.” (Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Una vita di musica (un libro di ricordi), edited by J. Westby, Fiesole, Cadmo 2005, pp. 75-76).
The Lyceum had the privilege of hosting the young Castelnuovo-Tedesco many times; he became a regular presence during its seasons, until he had to leave his beloved Florence. On January 8, 1915 the 19-year old musician performed recent works by Debussy and Ravel at the Lyceum Club on via Ricasoli, alternating with the violinist Gemma del Valle in a program that included, among other works, Alborada del gracioso, from Ravel’s Miroirs, several of Debussy’s Préludes, composed barely five years before. (cfr. Eleonora Negri, Grandi presenze ed eventi musicali al Lyceum Club di Firenze nel suo primo secolo di attività, in Lyceum Club Internazionale di Firenze. 1908-2008. Cento anni di vita culturale del primo circolo femminile italiano. Edited by Mirka Sandiford, Firenze, Polistampa 2008, pp. 125-142).