CANTELLI in New York, Vol. 1: Haydn, Mozart, Ravel, Falla, Vivaldi, Beethoven, Piston, Copland (1955) - PASC501

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CANTELLI in New York, Vol. 1: Haydn, Mozart, Ravel, Falla, Vivaldi, Beethoven, Piston, Copland (1955) - PASC501

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HAYDN  Symphony No. 93
MOZART  Piano Concerto No. 21
RAVEL Pavane pour une infante défunte
FALLA  El Sombrero des Tres Picos, Suite No. 2
VIVALDI  L'Estro Armonico: Concerto Grosso No. 11
BEETHOVEN  Piano Concerto No. 3
PISTON Toccata
COPLAND El Salón México

Recorded in 1955
Total duration:  2hr 26:56 

Walter Gieseking, piano
Rudolf Firkušný,
New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Guido Cantelli

This set contains the following albums:

These recordings were sourced from generally very high quality tape recordings. Despite some electrical hum and the occasional buzzing, both of which have largely been dealt with, only the very occasional incidence of mild, and short-lived dropout in any way troubled the reproduction. XR remastering has greatly improved the listening experience, with a fuller, clearer and cleaner sound. Whilst much of Jim Fassett's original CBS radio commentary has been retained, I have edited out sections irrelevant to the concerts.     

Andrew Rose


1 Concert 1 - Introduction  (1:07)

HAYDN  Symphony No. 93 in D major, Hob. 1:93
2 1st mvt. - Adagio - Allegro assai  (8:09)
3 2nd mvt. - Largo cantabile  (5:37)
4 3rd mvt. - Menuetto (Allegretto) - Trio  (4:19)
5 4th mvt. - Finale (Presto ma non troppo)  (5:30)

6 Introduction to Mozart  (1:28)

MOZART  Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K.467
7 1st mvt. - Allegro maestoso  (14:54)
8 Andante  (7:39)
9 Allegro vivace assai  (7:26)

Walter Gieseking, piano

10 RAVEL Pavane pour une infante défunte  (6:32)

FALLA  El Sombrero des Tres Picos, Suite No. 2
11 1. Los vecinos  (3:06)
12 2. Danza del molinero (Farruca)  (2:52)
13 3. Danza final  (6:54)

CBS Radio Broadcast
Introduced by Jim Fassett
Carnegie Hall, 6 March, 1955


1 Concert 2 - Introduction  (1:50)

VIVALDI  L'Estro Armonico: Concerto Grosso in D minor, Op. 11, No. 3, RV565
2 1st mvt. - Allegro   (1:11)
3 2nd mvt. - Adagio e spiccato  (0:41)
4 3rd mvt. - Allegro  (3:35)
5 4th mvt. - Largo e spiccato  (3:45)
6 5th mvt. - Allegro  (4:12)

7 Introduction to Beethoven  (2:20)

BEETHOVEN  Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37
8 1st mvt. - Allegro con brio  (15:15)
9 2nd mvt. - Largo  (8:48)
10 3rd mvt. - Rondo. Allegro - Presto  (9:02)

Rudolf Firkušný, piano

11 PISTON Toccata  (8:15)

12 Introduction to Copland  (1:12)

13 COPLAND El Salón México  (11:16)

CBS Radio Broadcast
Introduced by Jim Fassett
Carnegie Hall, 13 March, 1955

New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra    
Conducted by Guido Cantelli

XR remastering by Andrew Rose
Cover artwork based on a photograph of Guido Cantelli
Total duration:  2hr 26:56  

Sleeve Note for 6 and 13 March 1955

It is a common misconception that Guido Cantelli had a limited repertoire. This is possibly due, to some extent, because of the small number of his commercial recordings which – apart from three - were approved by the conductor; there were four with the NBC Symphony Orchestra; two with the Orchestra Stabile Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Roma; one with the Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala, Milano; 20 with the Philharmonia Orchestra and one with the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra. That is very little compared to the recorded legacies of other conductors of international stature.

The situation changed for collectors of recorded music when Cantelli began to give concerts in America. Whereas, in the UK, only five of Cantelli’s concerts were broadcast. Three were all with the Philharmonia Orchestra and the other two were with the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra. The majority of the performance included in the concert given on 9 September 1954 in the Usher Hall during the Edinburgh Festival has already appeared on CD and I can state with some confidence that another broadcast which was given in London’s Royal Albert Hall on 11 May 1953 will be released some time during 2017. Finally, when the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra began its European Tour in 1955 its first stop was Edinburgh and two concerts were broadcast from the Usher Hall on 6 and 7 September. These were all BBC broadcasts.

One aspect to note is that the NBC’s radio station – unlike the BBC - was a commercial operation and advertising occasionally took precedence over the music which could be cut off the air if it ran over time.

From 1949 Cantelli gave 40 concerts with the NBC Symphony Orchestra which were all broadcast and he appeared every year until 1954 when the orchestra was disbanded. The number of works which he conducted was 106 but 31 of these appeared later as commercial recordings. It is interesting to note, for instance, that three of the four commercial recordings with this orchestra (Haydn’s Symphony No.93; Hindemith’s Sinfonie Mathis der Maler and the Franck Symphony) were performed in these concerts three times. Other works which were also performed this often with the orchestra were Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra (no commercial recording); the Mozart Symphony No.29 (the very last work he recorded commercially); Ravel’s La valse and Wagner’s Rienzi Overture (no commercial recordings). There are even more examples of works being played twice. Even so, the Cantelli discography was increased by 58 compositions which were broadcast and never recorded commercially. Copyright law is complicated and is not the same for every country but probably it was not illegal to record broadcasts for personal use so it was quickly obvious that serious listeners soon had their tape recorders connected to their radios to increase their collections of recorded music.

In 1952 Toscanini was 85 and Cantelli possibly realised that his mentor’s career was nearing its end. Furthermore, once Toscanini had retired it would be inconceivable that the NBC would continue to maintain a symphony orchestra.

At this time Cantelli envisaged that a substantial number of his concerts would be in America. He had already given six concerts with the Pittsburgh and three with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestras in 1951. Thus it was a logical step to have a career with the main orchestra in the metropolis, the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra. It is quite revealing to compare his career in Europe with that in America from 1952.







Appearances with European Orchestras







Appearances with American Orchestras







Appearances with the New York Philharmonic-Symphony








*Fourteen more concerts had been scheduled for November and December which obviously did not take place due to Cantelli’s tragic death in an air crash.

Two factors should be noted. First, the programmes were for “proper” concerts with a paying audience with an interval and second, Cantelli now had the benefit of working with instrumentalists with international reputations. Both concerts on these CDs were in the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra’s subscription series which meant that the majority of the programme was played three times. Thus, while Gieseking played Franck’s Variations synphoniques on 3rd and 4th of March, it was replaced by Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante défunte for the concert on 6th March. Similarly, while the first two concertos of Vivaldi’s Seasons were played on 10th and 11th March these were replaced by Vivaldi’s Concerto Op.3 No.11 for the concert on 13th March. (Incidentally, Cantelli recorded the Vivaldi Seasons complete with this orchestra later in the year on 29 March. Cantelli’s action caused considerable hiatus between HMV, RCA and CRI which has been documented elsewhere†

The Concert on 6 March 1955 given in Carnegie Hall, New York

Haydn (1732-1809): Symphony in D major. Hob1:93

This work was something of Cantelli’s calling card; he gave 35 performances with eleven orchestras. One of the interesting features – unlike his elder peers eg Beecham – is that he played all the repeats. He was working from a corrupt edition and did not have just the first desk strings playing in the opening of the second movement: but, nevertheless, his musicianship shines through and this live performance is among the best of the five performances which have been recorded from Cantelli’s recorded concerts..

Mozart (1756-1791): Piano Concerto in C major, K.467, No.21

When Walter Legge suggested to Walter Gieseking that he might wish to record the Emperor with Cantelli in a forthcoming stereo version the pianist demurred on the grounds that when one had recorded a work with Karajan to work with anyone else was a retrograde step. One can only speculate that Gieseking was so impressed by his collaboration with Cantelli in 1955 (which was the young conductor’s first performances of this concerto) because he came back the next season. Which concerto did he play? No surprise really: it had to be the … Emperor! As far as this Mozart concerto is concerned the critics commented that the veteran pianist and the young conductor were at one accord and certainly this is another highlight in Cantelli’s discography.

Ravel (1875-1937): Pavane pour une infant d éfunte

This composition had a very special significance for Cantelli. He was inordinately fond of his nephew, Sergio, and was devastated when the child died when only 12 in November 1951. His next performance, on 1 December, was dedicated to Sergio’s memory. The next performances took place with the Philharmonia Orchestra on 5 and 8 October 1952. A few days later there was a commercial recording and the highly strung Cantelli was fully aware that it would be a permanent memorial to Sergio, The sessions were fraught with tension with Cantelli experiencing enormous problems with balancing the harp’s contribution: the lady harpist, Renata Scheffel-Stein, was reduced to a nervous wreck. Despite all this, it will take a superlative artist to erode the memory Dennis Brain’s concert performance or his commercial recording with the Philharmonia Orchestra. On this CD we have a conductor who respects Ravel’s economy in this gravely beautiful score – there is something about the six minutes of music which has Mozartian refinement with maximum impact from limited resources. It is only 72 bars and the entire work only takes 12 pages of a study score. There are 13 changes of tempi but the horn is only asked to play forte for very few notes. The orchestra’s principal horn, James Chambers, matches Cantelli’s sensibility. It does not quite erase the memory of Cantelli’s performance with Dennis Brain, but it is a close run thing. This performance of this sombre piece is greeted by a lengthy silence from the audience. In this author’s view that should be considered as the highest praise.

De Falla (1865-1935): El sombrero de tres picos

Cantelli only ever conducted the Second Suite with the three dances – The Neighbours’ Dance, The Miller’s Dance and The Final Dance from de Falla’s ballet music for The Three Cornered Hat.

Although one cannot be absolutely certain, this could well be the first time that a live performance of this de Falla by Cantelli has been issued on CD. Perhaps some of the scoring does not emerge with maximum clarity – let us face it, there is always a lot going on – but it is an enjoyable performance.

The Concert on 13 March 1955 given in Carnegie Hall, New York

Vivaldi (1678-1741): Concert Grosso in D minor, Op.3 No.11 RV 565

The author was 22 before he heard a note of Vivaldi and this was in one of Cantelli’s early concerts in London’s Royal Festival Hall. My reaction was that this was fantastic music. The abiding memory is that management had a separated print slip inserted in the programme note explaining that the Vivaldi was in fact four three-movement concertos: it was, of course, The Seasons. The point is that this music was new and continued to be so for the majority of concert-goers for a considerable time. The reason for this preamble is that our knowledge of performance practice for the music of the 17th and 18th centuries has changed out of all recognition from the 1950s. Cantelli only had seven of Vivaldi’s concertos in his repertoire (that is if one counts The Seasons as four). The performance of this concerto reflects accurately how Vivaldi was played at the time. It sounds as if Cantelli had a substantial body of strings which would not be the case today. But before this performance is dismissed one should bear in mind that if one wanted to hear Vivaldi in the mid-1950s this was how it was presented.

Beethoven (1770-1827): Piano Concerto No.3 in C minor, Op.37

Cantelli conducted four of Beethoven’s piano concertos and only the second was absent. He collaborated with four pianists for this concerto: the first was with Eduardo del Pueyo and the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino on 26 January 1947; the second was with Friedrich Gulda and the Orchestra del Theatre Comunale di Bologna on 20 February 1948; next was Rudolf Firkušný (playing on this CD) and finally Arthur Rubinstein given with the Orchestra della Scala on 25 and 26 October 1956 together with the Emperor! Firkušný may not be a name which resonates the same way as Arrau, Backhaus, Gieseking, Gulda, Casadesus or Serkin (all of whom played Beethoven’s concertos with Cantelli) but the fact is that he collaborated more often with Cantelli than any other pianist and these co-operations, in alphabetical order, involved the Beethoven 3rd( (3); the Brahms 1st (3); the Dvorák (2); the Grieg (6) and the Menotti – the Grieg and the Menotti were Cantelli’s only performances.

Cantelli’s contribution is nigh on ideal as far as the tempi and balances are concerned and one should be aware that he had only performed the concerto twice before as mentioned above. What is particularly noticeable is the relish that Cantelli sets for the opening Allegro con brio. The soloist and conductor integrate their conception which was to be expected from their long association. Perhaps it would be fair to say that Firkušný’s finger work is not as always as clear as one would expect in the 21st century (is it the recording?) but one would be pernickety to make too much of that. It is a case of excellent being an enemy of the good.

Piston (1894-1976): Toccata

Although Cantelli only performed this eight-minute piece three times he had a complete grasp of both the rumbustious elements and the quieter moments. The composer heard the broadcast recorded on this CD and he wrote to Cantelli the same day in his somewhat unidiomatic Italian (Piston’s grandfather was actually Italian).

Dear Maestro,

I have listened to my Toccata on the radio and I want to tell you what great pleasure your
performance gave me. It was all a composer can hope for and I am very grateful too for
your sense of rhythm, your enthusiasm and your wonderful performance.

I also want to thank you for including the music of two contemporary American composers
In your programme.

I hope that you will accept the kind regards of your devoted

Walter Piston

Is there anything nothing more to be said.

Copland (1900-1990): El Salón México

When Copland paid his first visit to Mexico in 1932 he visited – to use his own words – a “hot spot” and conceived the notion of writing music which reflected the spirit he experienced in the Salón México. Copland considered – quite rightly – that as a tourist he did not have enough knowledge to write a piece which reflected the more profound side of the country. His composition would consist of melodies which were connected in his mind with his experience in that dance hall. In a note that Copland published in his recording with the New Philharmonia Orchestra in 1972 he mentioned that practically all the themes came from the Cancionero Mexicano by Francis Toor or the erudite El Folk-lore y la Música Mexicana by Ruben M. Campos. Copland wrote “It wasn’t the music I heard, but the spirit is what I hope to have put in my music.”

As so often with Cantelli, although he first conducted this piece during the March 1955 subscription concerts, he grasps the contents as though he had known the piece all his life. He later gave two more performances with this orchestra and – more surprisingly – two with the Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala. It is another recording that should be in anyone’s Cantelli discography.

Keith Bennett © 2017

† This is in the publication ‘ Cantelli – Just eight years of Fame’. Contact for further information. The recording of Vivaldi’s Seasons with the Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York has been remastered by Mark Obert-Thorn and is available on Pristine Audio PASC 176.