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Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Symphony No.1 in C minor, op.68 (I. Poco sostenuto - Allegro
[13.12]; II. Andante sostenuto [8.06]; III. Un poco allegretto
e grazioso [4.30]; IV. Adagio - Allegro ma non troppo
Symphony Orchestra/Guido Cantelli
rec. 27 March 1954, WGBH-FM Boston broadcast. ADD
AUDIO PASC083 [42:01]
Italian conductor Guido Cantelli died far too young, at only
36 years of age, in a plane crash in France.
in Novara, Italy, in 1920, he played the organ at a local
church when only 10 years old and made his debut as a pianist
at 14. He studied composition and conducting at the Milan
Conservatory, but his career was held up by the war. Forced
to join the army in 1943, he was interned in a German labour
camp near Stettin (1943-1944) because of his outspoken loathing
of Nazism. Illness required hospitalization at Bolzano where
he escaped using a forged passport, subsequently living in
Milan under an assumed name until Fascist troops took him
hostage. Following the liberation in 1944, he was freed and
began to pursue conducting engagements.
in only three seasons, Cantelli proved himself deserving
of the mercurial career that Toscanini launched.
in his final decade, Arturo Toscanini was on the lookout
for someone to take over his NBC Symphony - the orchestra
especially formed for him in 1938. Antonio Ghiringhelli,
intendant at La Scala in Milan, took Toscanini to an off-season
concert conducted by Cantelli and without needing to hear
the whole concert the older man declared “that is me directing
this concert!" Cantelli’s debut with the NBC SO took
place on 15 January 1949, and Time magazine printed a profile
likening him physically to Frank Sinatra, and musically to
Toscanini. Cantelli subsequently conducted the NBC Symphony
annually, starting with four and expanding to eight programmes
each year, until the orchestra was disbanded in 1954.
worldwide career was underway; in 1951 he made the first
of five annual appearances as a regular guest-conductor of
the New York Philharmonic and made records with New York,
the NBC and London’s Philharmonia orchestras.
the mid-1950s, Mitropoulos was on his way out as chief conductor
of the New York Philharmonic and Cantelli was being groomed
- despite being a hard taskmaster who was resented by the
sluggish players - to take over with, surprisingly, Bernstein
serving merely as a stopgap until Cantelli was "ready".
La Scala formally named him music director on 16 November
1956, to succeed Carlo Maria Giulini, but eight days later
Cantelli died when the Lineo Aereo Italiano plane from Milan
to New York City, in which he was a passenger, crashed following
a stopover at Orly Airport near Paris.
might wonder why I find it necessary to repeat so much information
that is already known but the answer is simple; we must not
forget the details of Cantelli‘s all too brief life. This
CD contains a truly outstanding performance of a standard
classic, a staple of the repertoire, which emerges afresh
with a maturity I find lacking in many performances of this
work by many an older conductor, and it’s conducted by a
very young man of only 33 years of age. Boulez once said
that you must never commence a performance unless you have
the conclusion within your sights. Cantelli starts in the
full knowledge of how the work will end and the whole performance
builds gradually to the final climax. There are a couple
of moments where one wonders exactly what Cantelli is doing
- I found the opening of the Allegros in the outer movements
to be somewhat rushed, but I soon accepted the tempo and
found that it worked wonderfully well - the exposition is
not repeated in the first movement. This is the mark of the
young man - he was willing to take risks with the music and
make them seem to be the correct way. Two small niggles are
worth mentioning simply because they stand out: the oboe
solo, which links the slow introduction, in the first movement,
to the Allegro, is somewhat sour and the big flute solo in
the introduction to the finale seems rather tentative.
sound is excellent - full praise to Andrew Rose for his remastering.
heard this performance I could not live without it. I wouldn’t
want it as the sole recording of Brahms 1 in my collection
but alongside Boult (EMI) and Horenstein (Reader’s Digest/RCA)
it can certainly hold its own.
recording can be downloaded from Pristine Audio’s website or
purchased as a normal CD.
recorded legacy is all too small and the six CDs Pristine
Audio has issued are invaluable. Happy listening.
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