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CD & download: Pristine Classical

Luigi CHERUBINI (1760-1842)
Symphony in D major (1815) [26:37]
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Tod und Verklärung, Op. 24 (1888-9) [22:31]
Ferruccio BUSONI (1866-1924)
Berceuse élégiaque, Op. 42(1909) [8:07]; Tanzwalzer, Op 53 (1920) [10:46]
Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York/Guido Cantelli
rec. live, 21 March 1954, Carnegie Hall, New York

Experience Classicsonline

This release contains almost all of a Cantelli concert from March 1954. Missing is the piece with which the concert ended, Ravel’s Bolero. Cantelli expert, Keith Bennett, tells us in his notes that there has been at least one recording issued which purports to be of Cantelli’s performance on that occasion. However, he’s been unable to establish definitively whether the recording is the genuine article - reading between the lines, one suspects it’s spurious. The present transfers, by Andrew Rose, are from Keith Bennett’s own collection and Rose seems to have done a very good job. The sound is good and wears its near-sixty years well.
The Cherubini symphony has never really established a place in the repertoire. However, Toscanini took it up and in a note accompanying Cantelli’s 1952 broadcast of the work (PASC 319) Keith Bennett suggests that Toscanini’s example inspired Cantelli’s interest. Apparently he was scheduled to conduct it again in New York in December 1956, a few weeks after the plane crash that cost him his life. It may not be a great symphony but Cantelli pays it the compliment of taking it very seriously. He gives a spirited account of the first movement and shapes the second movement elegantly. He secures strongly rhythmical playing in the Minuetto and the playing in the finale displays high levels of energy. I haven’t seen a score but it’s noticeable that the finale runs for 4:40, making it the shortest movement in the work - by contrast the first movement plays for 10:18; I wonder if Cantelli omitted some repeats or if the movement is genuinely so short.
Tod und Verklärung comes off well, perhaps because Cantelli is fairly sober in his approach. He generates good atmosphere in the quiet opening pages and then in the much more urgent section (4:44 - 8:02) he really whips the orchestra up, though without doing anything to excess. The final revelation of the Transfiguration music itself (17:26) is noble - and Cantelli’s handling of the preceding pages, preparing for the theme, is exemplary. The piece isn’t one of the composer’s finest but Cantelli’s way with it is very persuasive.
The Busoni Berceuse is an expanded version of a piano piece, which Busoni re-worked in response to his mother’s death in 1909. Most of the music is subdued in tone and delicate and Cantelli leads a refined and sensitive account. By contrast Tanzwalzer represents Busoni in a lighter vein and Cantelli performs it with flair.
This is yet another release of live performances that show us what an exceptional talent was Guido Cantelli. The attractions of this disc are increased by the general rarity on disc of some of the repertoire. Cantelli gets some excellent playing from the orchestra and this issue will be self-recommending to all admirers of this great though short-lived conductor.
John Quinn
Masterwork Index: Tod und Verklärung



































































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