CANTELLI NBC Concert No. 31: Rossini and Tchaikovsky (1953) - PASC166

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CANTELLI NBC Concert No. 31: Rossini and Tchaikovsky (1953) - PASC166

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Overview

ROSSINI Overture to The Siege of Corinth
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 6, 'Pathétique'
Recorded 1953
Total duration: 53:46
NBC Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Guido Cantelli

This set contains the following albums:

The complete Carnegie Hall concert in superb sound

First in a new series of Cantelli NBC concerts

 

Keith Bennett, whose new book Guido Cantelli - Just Eight Years Of Fame is published to co-incide with this release, was my introduction to the short-lived musical world of Guido Cantelli. His ceaseless championing of Cantelli has resulted in a number of releases on various record labels including Pristine, and it's now an immense pleasure to be able to delve into Keith's extensive and meticulously- maintained collection of rare taped recordings for this new series of issues.

Each one will take the music from a complete concert broadcast by NBC from Carnegie Hall in the early-to-mid 1950s, with the NBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Cantelli. Sonically these are a huge improvement over the many concerts the orchestra gave in NBC Studio 8H under Toscanini, Cantelli and others - the Hall's acoustics are of course excellent, and as listeners we also benefit from ever-improving microphone and recording technologies.

In remastering I've dealt with the inevitable tape hiss, and also some mild tonal imbalances characteristic of older recordings - XR remastering identifies and remedies many of the imperfections of older microphones. I've also worked to reduce or remove a number of audience coughs and sneezes, using the latest digital spectral repair technology to avoid damage to the musical content. The result is a fine-sounding representation of Cantelli in concert - clear and full-bodied, brilliantly conveying Cantelli and the orchestra's attention to both fine detail and overall musical impression.

Andrew Rose

ROSSINI Overture to The Siege of Corinth
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 6 in B minor, 'Pathétique'

NBC Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Guido Cantelli

Carnegie Hall, New York,
Saturday 21st February, 1953

Transfer tape from the collection of Keith Bennett
Transfer and XR remastering by Andrew Rose at Pristine Audio, May 2009
Cover artwork based on a photograph of Guido Cantelli

Total duration: 53:46

Cantelli's NBC Concert No. 31 - 21st February 1953

notes by Keith Bennett


 

Rossini: Overture – Le siège de Corinthe

Commentators often refer to Guido Cantelli’s good taste but there are a few occasions when that attribute deserts the conductor. Such instances which come to mind are the saccharine arrangement by Molinari of the Largo from Handel’s Xerxes and Wagner’s overture to Rienzi and to those could be added this overture by Rossini. This is a potboiler of an overture (and that is being charitable – some have deemed it trashy fifth-rate music) which Cantelli included in his first appearance with the Orchestra della Scala at an open air concert on 27 July 1945 and he gave 32 performances in all (the only Rossini overture to be programmed more often was Semiramide). After the solemn opening it rapidly deteriorates in musical substance and becomes merely rumbustious. Small wonder that Toscanini did not share his younger colleague’s enthusiasm: he gave a couple of performances with the Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York in 1931 but none were programmed with the NBC Symphony Orchestra although he did make the studio recording. Cantelli’s performances with the NBC Symphony Orchestra (there was another with the orchestra on 1 January 1951) easily outclass his commercial recording with the Orchestra Stabile dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia both in terms of performance and actual recording quality. But what a pity that the Cantelli performance of L’italiana in Algeri on 7 April 1954 was not broadcast to add to the conductor’s discography.


Tchaikovsky: Symphony in B minor, No.6, Op.74, Pathétique

There are instances when the tragedy of Cantelli’s brief career registers with overwhelming force and this is one of them. Cantelli performed this symphony on just six occasions and it is worth a moment’s thought that Karajan made more commercial recordings of this symphony (seven) than Cantelli gave actual performances. Cantelli first conducted the symphony on 27 July 1945 at an open air concert during his first appearance with the Orchestra della Scala and his last was this performance with the NBC Symphony Orchestra on 21 February 1953 on this CD. His previous concert performance was with the Philharmonia Orchestra on 14 October 1952 which was followed by four three-hour session on 24, 28 and 30 October for the commercial recording. As might be expected, with so short an interval between the commercial recording in London and the concert performance in New York, there is little to choose between them.. Cantelli fully understands the emotional implications of the score which he conveys without resorting to exaggerations: the demands of expressiveness are met without hysteria, tempi are well-judged in all four movements, and the harrowing despair of the final movement is admirably portrayed. All this is true of the live performance with the NBC Symphony Orchestra.


Cantelli/Philharmonia Orchestra (EMI)

24, 28 & 30 October 1952

15:59

7:54

9:02

8:58

Cantelli/Philharmonia Orchestra (Testament)

ditto

16:11

8:00

9:08

9:05

Cantelli/NBC Symphony Orch

21 February 1953

16:30

7:53

9:29

8:51

Toscanini/NBC Symphony Orch

29 October 1938

16:55

6:35

8:06

9:00

Toscanini/NBC Symphony Orch

19 April 1941

16:42

6:36

8:05

9:20

Toscanini/Philadelphia Orchestra

8 February 1942

16:30

7:59

8:27

9:05

Toscanini/NBC Symphony Orch

24 November 1947

16:11

7:19

8:42

9:00

Toscanini/NBC Symphony Orch

21 March 1954

17:38

8:18

9:32

10:29


 

However, the writer would like to make some reference to Toscanini’s concert performances with the NBC SymphonyOrchestra. Some commentators have expressed the view that Cantelli was a Toscanini clone and when it comes to the two works of Tchaikovskythat the Maestro and Cantelli both performed – this symphony and the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture – one can understand how that assessment came into being because the performances are remarkably similar, both purge the compositions of exaggeration and sentimentality, which is definitely preferable to those performances with over-stated dynamics coupled with inappropriate over-romanticizing. But readers should also remember that Toscanini thought Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.5 was banal and this was a work for which Harris Goldsmith coined the expression of Cantelli’s ‘calling cards’ (he performed it on 28 occasions). Would a clone have done that in view of his mentor’s strongly held view?

© Keith Bennett 2009


 

Keith Bennett is the author of Guido Cantelli – Just Eight Years of Fame (published 2009) which is only available from GC Publishers. For further details either write to GC Publishers, 21 Nunn Close, Martlesham, Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 4UL, UK or e-mail gcpublishers@keithbennett.waitrose.com


Fanfare Review

Here is yet another treasure trove of Cantelli material

[excerpt from review round-up of Pristine's Cantelli]

The remaining three discs are each devoted to complete Cantelli broadcasts—his 19th, 30th, and 31st appearances with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. The symphonies therein represented—the Brahms Third, Schubert “Unfinished” (a typographical error on the cover gives the key as A Minor rather than B Minor), and Tchaikovsky “Pathétique”—were all recorded commercially by Cantelli with the Philharmonia Orchestra in 1953, 1955, and 1952, respectively. The wonderfully textured live concert performance of the Brahms is, well, more alive than the still beautiful studio recording; the live Schubert is likewise preferable to the studio account, particularly in the broadcast performance’s more forward-pressing second movement; and the Tchaikovsky, given the live context, ultimately, and perhaps necessarily, feels more exciting, deeply probing, and better integrated than the very fine studio account, which was recorded over the course of five days.


The performances of the Wagner and Rossini overtures are both gripping and exciting; each of these works also exists in other Cantelli-led accounts, including a 1949 commercial recording of the Rossini with the Santa Cecilia Orchestra, and a 1949 NBC broadcast of Rienzi that is less well controlled and integrated than the present 1953 broadcast. Roussel’s Sinfonietta for string orchestra and Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem represent works that received hardly any performances under Cantelli’s baton; each is the conductor’s sole preserved account. His only other performance of the Roussel was in 1946, with the Orchestra da Camera in Milan. Besides this 1953 Sinfonia da Requiem broadcast—an intensely dramatic and probing account that makes one wish he’d had time to lead more of Britten’s music—he also led the work in 1952 with the La Scala Orchestra and in 1956 with the New York Philharmonic. (An aside: though seemingly unavailable as I write, another 20th-century work particularly worth seeking in its sole Cantelli recording—in fact his only performance of it, from a 1953 NBC broadcast—is Barber’s School for Scandal Overture, a non-traditionally spacious, individual rendition that nevertheless proves convincing, meaningful, and important.) Berlioz’s “Rákóczi March” figured in Cantelli’s repertoire mainly as an encore piece; this, his only preserved performance, actually comes across better in its cleaner, less congested Music & Arts transfer (perhaps a function of the source material)—the only instance where I found Pristine’s version not at least equal to, or better than, earlier releases. For instance, I heard no meaningful difference when comparing the Brahms Symphony No. 3 on Pristine to the same performance as heard in the aforementioned 12-disc Music & Arts set.


So, in sum, here is yet another treasure trove of Cantelli material that should surely be of interest to those already initiated, as well as (one can always hope) to anyone not yet familiar with the conductor’s work. All of Pristine’s releases are available either as downloads or CDs via Pristine’s Web site, www.pristineclassical.com. Finally, let me again mention Keith Bennett’s Guido Cantelli: Just Eight Years of Fame, which is now the prime source for detailed information on Cantelli’s concerts and recordings, with much else about his life besides. (For further info on that, e-mail gcpublishers@keithbennett.waitrose.com.) It doesn’t come cheap, but its value to collectors is not to be questioned. And drawing upon his work for that book, Bennett is now providing the notes for Pristine’s latest Cantelli releases, including, of those discussed here, the conductor’s 19th, 30th, and 31st NBC concerts and Mozart Requiem.


Marc Mandel

This article originally appeared in Issue 33:3 (Jan/Feb 2010) of Fanfare Magazine.