Born into a family of sephardic Jews, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco demonstrated his talent for music at an early age, graduating in piano and composition and becoming a student of Ildebrando Pizzetti
In the period between the two world wars, he performed as a pianist but after the introduction of racial laws in Italy in 1938, he decided to move to the United States. There he began to collaborate with the film industry in Hollywood and was successful as a ‘ghost' composer of movie theme music – ghost because extremely few of the many themes he wrote were attributed to him. One of those was the theme music for ‘Dieci piccoli indiani' by René Clair in 1945, the same year he became an American citizen. Meanwhile, he continued his prolific activity as a composer of all kinds of music, as well as his work as a teacher, both Henry Mancini and John Williams were students of his.
He died in Los Angeles in 1968. An extraordinarily prolific composer (he wrote pieces for the piano solo, concertos for various instruments and orchestra, chamber music, operas and ballets), today Castelnuovo-Tedesco is remembered most of all for his vocal and guitar music. He set the work of many authors in different languages (he knew quite a few himself) to music: from Shakespeare to Cavalcanti. He dedicated much attention throughout his life to the guitar, writing some unforgettable works such as two Concertos for guitar and orchestra, the Quintetto for guitar, Capricci da Goya, op. 195 and the Capriccio Diabolico for guitar only, dedicated to Paganini.