Masterwork Index: Tchaikovsky
These recordings offer proof - if proof were needed - of what a great
was the tragically short-lived Guido Cantelli (1920-1956). I’ve had
Tchaikovsky and Ravel recordings in my collection for many years on
CDs (SBT 1316 and SBT 1017 respectively).
I presume those Testament discs came from EMI masters, since they were
under licence from EMI. The source of these Pristine transfers is rather
unusual and I think it’s worth reproducing Andrew Rose’s note
“The recordings here, all of which were generously lent by [Cantelli
Keith Bennett for the purposes of this release, were drawn largely from a
and unusually high quality source. During the 1950s, His Master's Voice
could be purchased on disc, normally both 78rpm shellac and, from 1952
on the quickly popular 33rpm vinyl format. However, they also ran a short
of "High Fidelity Tape Recording" issues, the "HTA" series, and at the
the highest-priced issue format the company offered. Each tape consisted
a 7-inch spool of 1/4 inch EMITAPE with two mono tracks, one on each side,
at 7.5 inches per second. A printed paper inlay contained the sleeve
and a small slip which referenced the Batch Number was hand-initialled by
tape operator, an inspector and a packer. Despite their undoubted high
especially when replayed as here on a modern, broadcast-standard Studer
recorder, these tapes failed to attract much public attention at the time,
possibly as a result of their exorbitant cost. It has to be said that they
been a pleasure to work from - offering the highest quality of any
medium I've encountered from the era.”
The resulting transfers are excellent though I have to say that I
detect a great deal of difference between the Pristine and Testament
except, perhaps - and this is a very minor matter - the tiniest
of hiss around the 1:40 mark in the Ravel recording on the Pristine
However, anyone wanting these recordings can invest in Andrew Rose’s
with complete confidence.
If you appreciate great conducting then you should want these
for, as recorded performances they are superb. Cantelli was a very fine
of Tchaikovsky and I admire his recording of the
enormously. These recordings were all set down in conjunction with
that Cantelli gave with the Philharmonia and, experimentally, they were
in the same venue as the concerts, the recently-opened Royal Festival
In a fascinating note about these recordings the aforementioned Keith
points out that in his entire - and short - career Cantelli performed this
just six times; he then goes on to point the contrast with Karajan who
made seven commercial recordings! Perhaps that’s why
recording, though undoubtedly scrupulously prepared, sounds so fresh and
The big melancholy tune in the first movement is judged to perfection;
expressive but not overwrought. The interpretation is aided by some
playing by the Philharmonia who, collectively, are on sovereign form - the
principals are superb. The allegro vivo (8:44) is trenchant and
of drive yet it never tips over into hysteria as lesser interpretations
do. The 5/4 waltz is nicely turned and is gracefully played. The march is
controlled and the Philharmonia’s articulation is razor-sharp. In
finale Tchaikovsky’s marking, lamentoso, if not the music
invites the wearing of the heart on the sleeve. Cantelli, however, is
He’s ardent too, however, and delivers a reading that is powerful
tipping over into sentimentality. This is, in fact, one of the finest
performances of the Pathétique that I know.
Apparently the recording of Ravel’s exquisite Pavane required
takes to satisfy Cantelli’s exacting standards. Not that you’d
that from the performance that we hear, which has a lovely, natural flow.
great Dennis Brain is the principal horn and the wonderful wind soloists
his excellent playing. The performance is beautifully judged and balanced
there’s great clarity. The string playing can only be described as
This is a wonderful recording.
For dessert, if you like, Cantelli serves up a keen, sprightly performance
the Rossini overture.
This is a most desirable collection of performances by a great conductor.
the sound quality is fully worthy of the playing and interpretations, what
could one ask?