Italian violinist Francesca Dego dove head-long into connecting with composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and the result is Suite Italienne with pianist Francesca Leonardi for Deutsche Grammophon.
Francesca Dego first fell in love with this composer while performing his tongue-in-cheek “Figaro” from Rossini’s Barber of Seville. After hearing her play this opera paraphrase on the radio, Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s granddaughter Diana contacted Francesca. Through Diana’s help, Francesca was able to obtain some of the composer’s unpublished and unperformed works from the Library of Congress in Washington, including his mesmerizing Ballade Op. 107. The album also contains two other never-recorded pieces from Castelnuovo-Tedesco.
This album also includes Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne, Respighi’s Violin Sonata in B minor, and violin paraphrases of operas by Rossini and Verdi.
These composers pay homage to Italy’s musical heritage and to dance and theater, a wonderful leitmotiv throughout the album,” Francesca said.
Italy is important to Francesca, as her career really took off in the country when in 2008 she became the first female prizewinner at the Paganini Competition since 1961. She then went on to being signed by Deutsche Grammophon and releasing Paganini’s 24 Caprices as her debut CD in 2012. Paganini has been her companion and lucky composer.
Francesca strives to be as faithful to the score she is performing as she can. To do this, she reads as much as possible about the composer and their life experience to make it easier to focus completely. She loves to immerse into a work’s cultural and artistic context and historical background, especially if she hadn’t previously played other pieces by the same composer.
She also studies the score and listens to any available recordings — and this is all before picking up the violin!
“I think we owe it to the audience to bring them what the composers really meant. I’d like to think what I add is always my own, honest, and loyal interpretation,” she said.
Though as a child she often would have rather been outdoors than practicing, Francesca was a quick learner and playing the violin came very natural. She never felt forced by her parents to practice, and her mother used to tell her that if she really wanted to be a violinist, she had to be responsible about it and practice.
“I’ve really always known this was it for me, my choice of life,” Francesca added.
Inspiration From Others
Through her choice to become a violinist, there are mentors and those who inspire Francesca to keep pursuing her passion.
Italian violinist and conductor Salvatore Accardo was Francesca’s idol way before he became her teacher.
“I remember the butterflies in my stomach the first time I played for him but also how his first remarks made me forget them all at once with humor and unpretentious firmness,” she said.
Francesca has always felt comfortable talking to Salvatore and discussing any musical decision. She has never met anyone else with his profound knowledge of the repertoire and quasi-religious respect for the composer’s markings.
By following conductor Daniele Rustioni’s opera performances and observing his detailed work with singers over so many years, I have been constantly exposed to the great Italian repertoire. It also doesn’t hurt that Daniele is Francesca’s husband.
Singing has always inspired Francesca, so listening to opera gifts her all kinds of phrasing and pacing tips. She is fascinated by how complex theatre is; the miracle of when the intricate mechanism starts to work and every little piece of the puzzle falls into place and fits perfectly.
“I think the most amazing thing in this business is getting to surround yourself with the people you know will enrich you and make you a better musician,” she said.
To discover more about Francesca Dego and listen to her recently released album, visit her website.