This, strangely, is the only commercial recording that Cantelli
made with the orchestra then still known as the Philharmonic-Symphony
Orchestra of New York. It’s even more surprising to discover that
it’s Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, with the orchestra’s concertmaster
John Corigliano as soloist. He is not an obvious choice for the
conductor, though it’s true that he did venture into baroque waters
from time to time.
1955, this wasn’t yet the ubiquitous work it’s since become.
The notes mention the existence of a live Campoli performance
with Boyd Neel from 1939. I’ve often wondered about that performance,
given that the BBC was still being snooty to the violinist
at the time and only began to relent in respect of the classical
repertoire in the early 1940s. I suspect it was made a bit
later than 1939. The notes mention that the 1955 I Musici
recording was the ‘first commercially successful’ traversal.
Didn’t the 1947 Louis Kaufman recording (Naxos 8.110297-98)
sell very well? The recording by Molinari certainly couldn’t
have done, given its 1942 recording date; in the conductor’s
edition the solo violin is replaced by massed strings.
back to this disc we can note that the soloist isn’t overly spotlit,
as was so often the case, and that the orchestral patina is pretty
well integrated. There’s a large sounding harpsichord continuo.
Cantelli and Corigliano take the work seriously and just a bit
too ponderously, even for the time. The ethos is a general legato
with strongly vibrated string tone, heavily emphatic, as in the
Allegro of Spring with which things begin. All tempi will now
sound to us very measured but compensation comes from the soloist’s
fast vibrato and the lustre of the orchestra’s burnished string
section, its heft and strong attacks.
these broad parameters one can still enjoy this as a curio of
past performance practice. Some points will fester though, not
least the rather aggressive lower string chugging in the adagio
of Summer and the soloistic ethos in Autumn - and throughout,
really - which is tonally and stylistically more attuned to the
romantic repertoire. The same can, of course, be said of Kaufman
but somehow his greater luscious tonal reserves and candour-laden
portamenti seem to remove him from this kind of criticism, enclosing
him in a sub-category all his own.
and Cantelli’s tempi distensions in the slow movement of Autumn
are powerful indices of their approach to this music. And
so too is their solution to the Largo of Winter, in which
the solo line starts but then disappears. Molinari-like, massed
strings take over until the very end when Corigliano returns
out of the massed melee.
not heard the LPs from which this transfer derives but the
occasional muddiness is a result of the original set-up. One
for admirers of Vivaldian string saturation, Cantelli style.