Classical CD Reissues  
September 2003 - Part 1 of 2


Guido Cantelli conducts = HANDEL: Messiah Overture/BACH: Christmas Oratorio: Sinfonia/TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36/HAYDN: Symphony No. 94 in G/STRAVINSKY: Le Chant du Rossignol/WAGNER: Rienzi Overture/MOZART: Symphony No. 29 in A, K. 201/HINDEMITH: Mathis der Maler- Sinfonie/FRESCOBALDI: Four Pieces/BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92

Guido Cantelli conducts NBC Symphony
Testament SBT4 1306 53:06; 53:12; 49:22; 52:30 (Distrib. Harmonia Mundi):


Taken from Studio 8H Radio City, 1948-1950, these live broadcasts illuminate the art of Guido Cantelli (1920-1956) at a time when his style was continually being compared to that of his mentor, Arturo Toscanini. Cantelli was essentially a lyricist, even given his penchant for modern scores, which made him more allied to Stokowski and Rodzinski than to the conservative Toscanini. Cantelli liked to blend the old and the new, utilizing Ghedini's treatment of four of Frescobaldi's organ works, now ablaze with vibrant, occasionally dissonant colors. Given the limit of the one-hour format, we must admire Cantelli's programming and his willingness to subject the NBC players to an entirely new set of orchestral demands.

Several of these Testament resurrections have been available through AS Disc and Music&Arts CDs. The Mozart 29th from January 7, 1950 preserves the perfect tempo Cantelli achieves in the opening movement, a pace neither Beecham nor Fricsay cultivated and so made their presentation overly heavy and Teutonic. The Tchaikovsky 4th is a work Toscanini abhorred; so the NBC had only Stokowski's somewhat askew vision prior to Cantelli's fiery reading of December 24, 1959. The Beethoven 7th from January 14, 1950 is similar to the commercial record Cantelli made for EMI, perhaps more lean and elastic but no less resonant. The attention to rhythmic and color details of the Haydn "Surprise" Symphony (December 31, 1949) point to Toscanini's influence and phrasing, but with a more sober, less frenetically explosive emotionalism. The Hindemith score was always a Cantelli specialty, with expansive lines in the strings and strong brass contours. Collectors who missed the AS Disc version of Stravinsky's Le Rossignol from the December 31, 1949 concert will discover a poise and delicacy that remians unique to Cantelli and makes his tragically short career more poignant for us who wished to hear his mature style.

--Gary Lemco

Guido Cantelli conducts = ROSSINI: Semiramide Overture/MOZART: A Musical Joke, K. 522/SCHUMAN: Undertow/MILHAUD: Introduction and Funeral March/DALLAPICCOLA: Marsia--Suite/VERDI: I Vespri siciliani- Overture/HAYDN: Symphony No. 93 in D/VIVALDI: Concerto Grosso in A; Winter from The Four Seasons/BUSONI: Tanzwalzer/BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67/CORELLI: Concerto Grosso in G Minor "Christmas"/GEMINIANI: Andante for Strings/MONTEVERDI: Vespro della Beata Vergine

Guido Cantelli conducts NBC Symphony Orchestra
Robert Shaw Chorale (in Monteverdi)
Testament SBT4 1317 54:23; 54:22; 51:45; 51:40 (Distrib. Harmonia Mundi):

One of two Testament sets devoted to the live broadcast concerts from the Manhattan Center by Guido Cantelli (1920-1956), this set gives us a series of December 1950 programs that are notable for their musical diversity, a taste beholden to Arturo Toscanini but audacious in their modernism and their willingness to revitalize musicof the past.

Cantelli's individual personality is evident throughout these concerts, four of which had their CD debut on Music&Arts (CD-904): Corelli, Geminiani, Vivaldi, and Monteverdi. Cantelli made a commercial recording with the New York Philharmonic of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, but it plays as a more flabby, emotionally bland reading compared to Mischa Mishakov relatively sizzling approach for the NBC. While the Corelli "Christmas" Concerto is not "authentic" in style (the Molinari edition), it has a propulsion typical of Cantelli's rhythmic debts to Toscanini, but it retains a lush sonority not so far from Stokowski's surprisingly musical way with the score for Vanguard. Centelli uses Ghedini's edition for the Monteverdi Vespers, another work he programmed with the Philharmonic, but that without the resonant preparation of Robert Shaw's choral forces.

The modern works find an apt acolyte in Cantelli. I did not know Dallapiccola's suite for Marsia, but it has a sonic cross between Daphnis and Chloe and Stravinsky's Petrushka.  William Schuman's Undertow is a ballet built of Greek motifs, complete with the Muse Polyhymnia, Medusa, Ate and a nameless Transgressor without any apocalyptic violence. The Milhaud Introduction and Funeral March has a Brazilian flavor to it; it appeared CD previously on the pirate AS Disc label. Busoni's Waltz-Dance is is the Italian's stilted answer to Ravel's La Valse--I don't think anyone can make it sing.

The Classical works bear out Cantelli's innate, spirited sense of balance, that sensitivity to tempo which makes hisd Philharmonia version of Mozart's Symphony No. 29 my personal favorite. The Musical Joke is unbuttoned wit, a poised tribute to bad composition. Rossini's Semiramide was something of Cantelli's calling-card--he took it to Boston in a fine performance also--and he gets a good ride from the Toscanini-bred NBC. The Beethoven 5th is of the lean-machine variety, relying on brisk tensile strength for its cumulative effect. In Beethoven and (Robert) Schumann, I have always seen Cantelli as mediating Toscanini's fire with Furtwaengler's breadth of transition. The Haydn 93rd suffered cuts in repeats and the intrusions of poor timing on the original NBC broadcast, so the last bars are replaced by the Studio 8-H performance, a distinction without all that much of a difference. Testament restorations are vivid and satisfying, the notes by my old "First Hearing" colleague Mortimer Frank quite informative. Cantelli collectors will want everything.

--Gary Lemco

BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15; Paganini Variations, Op. 35; Two Rhapsodies, Op. 79

Wilhelm Backhaus, piano/Adrian Boult conducts BBC Symphony - Naxos Historical 8.110699 71:24:

Naxos artfully restores vintage Brahms performances by Wilhelm Backhaus (1884-1969), the great pupil of Eugen d'Albert, an exponent of the grand, virtuoso style who evolved into a sober and emotionally balanced proprietor of Chopin and the mainstream German tradition. Backhaus began as a firebrand virtuoso in the manner of Anton Rubinstein; then he matured as an artist interested in the music of Bach, Schumann, Haydn, and Beethoven, whose sonatas he played with an authority that became the standard for his audiences in Italy and around Lake Lugano.

These early electrical recordings, 1929-1932, capture the wilder strain in Backhaus' nature, when he inscribed the Chopin etudes for posterity. His Paganini Variations from 1929 set a blazing standard of interpretation, rife with the requisite bravura technique the piece demands: huge spans, fiery filigree and knotty, punishing octaves, slick glissandi, and the occasional velvet touch of the music-box sonority Brahms likewise demands in his Handel Variations. The Concerto from 1932 is a big concept, heavy with meaning in the first two movements, sweeping and rollicking in the rondo finale. The inscription complements the Schnabel performance of the B-flat Concerto with Boult. The Rhapsodies are passionate and bold, although the G Minor suffers the quick tempo of a reading tailored to the 78 rpm medium. The B Minor has the grand breadth and nobility of line that marked Backhaus as a distinctive artist. Obert-Thorn's restorations are quiet and seamless, qualities that will grab Backhaus collectors, certainly. But any Brahms enthusiast will seek out and treasure these powerful documents.

--Gary Lemco

MAHLER: Symphony No. 2 in C Minor "Resurrection"; Symphony No. 4 in G Major; Symphony No. 9 in D Major; Kindertotenlieder (2 performances)

Galina Vishnevskaya, soprano and Hildegard Roessl-Majdan, alto (Symphony No. 2)/Elisabeth Lindermeier, soprano (Symphony No. 4)
George London, baritone/Karl Schmitt-Walter, baritone (with Winfrid Zillig cond. Radio Frankfurt Orch.)
Otto Klemperer conducts Vienna Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio Symphony (No. 4), and Cologne Radio Orchestra (Kindertotenlieder)

Music&Arts CD-1123 77:35; 55:06; 60:19; 73:53 (Distrib. Albany):

These are among the most fluent, least adamantine of Mahler performances by Otto Klemperer (1885-1973) that I have heard: both the G Major Symphony and the valedictory D Major possess an airiness, a serenity, that is neither over wrought nor unduly monumental. This is not to say that Symphony No. 9 is rushed or streamlined, as Klemperer's 1950's Vox records often were. The D Major (June 9, 1968) lasts over 84 minutes, yet is does not sag nor wallow in majesterial sentimentality. The G Major (November 19, 1956), the most pantheistic of the offerings in the set, manages to balance ethereal texture and mordant wit, as in the scordatura violin solos in movement two. Elisabeth Lindermeier is a light, buoyant soprano, not so ingenuous as Stich-Randall, to my taste, but lithe and sweet. The C Minor "Resurrection" (June 21, 1963) takes its cue from Wagner's Die Walkuere, substituting declamation for lyricism until the lovely laendler of the Andante, which Klemperer moves with light feet. That the G Major proceeds so graciously as it does may be attributable to the Bavarian Radio-Symphony's careful tutelage in Mahler under Rafael Kubelik.

The two versions of the Kindertotenlieder song-cycle are most instructive: George London appears with Klemperer October 17, 1955 in Cologne. London's voice is opulent and dark, perhaps showing a bit of strain in upper middle register, but ardently passionate throughout Mahler's lugubrious visions of early death and infant sorrow. The phrase lengths in Wenn dein Mutetterlein are poised and classical; the nervous angst of the last song, In diesam Wetter is early Schoenberg. It is only when we hear the alternate, performance with Schmitt-Walter and Zillig from Frankfurt (September 4, 1949) that we feel how pushed London's version is, compared with the leisurely pathos of Schmitt-Walter, a lyric baritone who molds his rendition in the manner of the older Heinrich Rehkemper style. I truly love his Oft denk ich, sie sind nur ausgegangen. This is a most satisfying set, certainly to devotees of Mahler, and to those adherents of Otto Klemperer when he allows the music to persuade us without the intrusive medium of "personality."

--Gary Lemco

MOZART: Requiem in D Minor, K. 626/Interview with Benjamin Britten and Donald Mitchell

Heather Harper, soprano
Alfreda Hodgson, mezzo-soprano
Peter Pears, tenor
John Shirley-Quirk, bass
Benjamin Britten conducts Aldeburgh Festival Chorus and English Chamber Orchestra
BBC Legends BBCL 4119 76:33 (Distrib. Koch):


Taped June 20, 1971, just five years prior to Britten's own death, this Mozart Requiem from the Aldeburgh Festival captures Britten's great gifts as a conductor, along with his sensitivity as a composer of great choral works who could "touch up" Suessmayr's emendations to Mozart's original without violating the spirit of the occasion. The adding of string parts in violin and viola to the voice entry of the impassioned Tuba mirum of John Shirley-Quirk is only one example. From a slow, portent-laden, opening Introitus through a frenzied, swirling picture of God's wrath in the Dies irae, and then on to some mortal reconciliation with Fate, we are caught up in Britten's enthralled reading of this familiar, choral staple. The attention to choral nuances and rhythmic detail makes this Requiem something special, one composer's reading the map of our mortal coil from the signs forged in ink and blood by another master.

The 26-minute conversation recorded in Aldeburgh in 1969 plays as a forecast to the Requiem performance. In the section subtitled "Map Reading" Britten expounds his gratitude to the past, the Mozart and Verdi requiems that lent a foundation to his own form of the War Requiem. Britten and Mitchell open with their thoughts on the televised version of Peter Grimes, whether the idea of television and opera has any future. Britten pontificates on the subject of an opera based on Henry James; he mentions E.M. Forster. Britten speaks of his eschewal of teaching, feeling that his own mannerisms should not influence young composers. He speaks of his cycle Nocturnes, and the interplay of music, night, and dreams. Britten had been reading Euripides' play Ion, and he describes the startling modernity of its opening chorus. We get a glimpse into the manifold, multi-faceted visions of genius, and that is always a privilege.

--Gary Lemco

RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Mlada: Procession of the nobles; Scheherazade, Op. 35/SCRIABIN: Le Poeme de l'extase, Op. 54

John Georgiadis, violin
London Symphony Orchestra
USSR State Symphony Orchestra (Scriabin)
Evgeny Svetlanov, conductor
BBC Legends BBCL 4121 74:12 (Distrib. Koch):

Taken from two distinct concerts, 1978 and 1968, repsectively, this disc celebrates the conducting virtuosity of Evgeny Svetlanov (1929-2202), one of the finer exponents of the modern, Russian conducting style after Gauk and Mravinsky whose knowledge of the Germanic repertory was also quite catholic. Trained as both conductor and composer, Svetlanov always claimed that his model of conducting was Nicolai Golovanov of the Bolshoi Theater, a master colorist whose espousal of the music of Scriabin was indeed formidable.

The Rimsky-Korasakov, played by a fervent even frenetic LSO, has all the earmarks of the golden days under Albert Coates, here with superior sound. The nobles from Mlada march in full kaleidoscopic panoply, with horns and high woodwinds blazing, and the metric gymnastics in acrobatic perfection. The Scherherazade suite is one of those leisurely, long-breath accounts, in the manner of Fricsay, Stokowski, and Celibidache, the latter of whom was at the time (February 1978) quite involved with the LSO. By the time we reach the galloping rhythms and high-pitched squeals in the piccolo for the crashing of the ship on the rocks, Svetlanov has the audience eating out of his capable hands. The Scriabin is of yet another emotional order: August 21, 1968 was the date of the Soviet invasion of Prague, so anti-Soviet sentiment ran high, and the USSR Symphony musicians played under the gun, as it were. The concerts, which featured a nervous Mstislav Rostropovich (see BBCL 4110) in the Dvorak Concerto, managed to transcend politics and win the angry Proms audiences over. The concluding chord of the Scriabin is a Wagnerian paean to love and art, the likes of which your record collection has likely not been privy. Sensational, this disc.

--Gary Lemco

Andres Segovia = GALILEI: Six Pieces/VISEE: Six Pieces from Suite No. 9/BACH: Fugue in A Minor; Gavotte and Rondo/SCHUBERT: Menuetto from Piano Sonata in G, D. 894/TANSMAN: Cavatina/VILLA-LOBOS: 2 Preludes/CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO: Tonadilla on the Name of Andres Segovia; Tarantella, Op. 87, No. 1/GRANADOS: Danzas espagnolas, No. 10

Andres Segovia, guitar
BBC Legends BBCL 4108 70:57 (Distrib. Koch):

Recorded August 28, 1955 in Edinburgh's Freemason Hall, this fine recital by Andres Segovia (1893-1987) offers a wide variety of color music that permits his particular art to define itself. Flawless technique, a vibrant, pure tone, and infallible phrasing make many of the pieces intensely memorable. I gravitate to the Cavatina suite by Alexandre Tansman (1897-1986), whose Scherzino has punctuated, strumming effects. The concert opens with music by Vincenzo Galilei, the astronomer's father, who left a body of lute music. Both his suite and that of Robert de Visee allow Segovia to bring the tablature of early music to the fingers and standards of 20th Century color and dynamics, often "orchestral" in temper. Almost the entirety of the rest of the program is comprised of Segovia commissions and dedications, like Castelnuovo-Tedesco's "postcard" of Segovia's name, made into a Schumannesque anagram for the brilliant Tonadilla. The Bach and Schubert are part of the huge transcription project segovia conducted to broaden the guitar repertory: it is curious how he and Artur Rubinstein both selected only the menuetto from Schubert's Fantasie-Sonata in G, but they both play it with the same phraseology. The finale, the melancholy 10th of Granados' Spanish Dances, loses nothing in its "reduction " from the piano original: its G Major affirmation resounds through the hall even as the audience can barely contain its rapt enthusiasm.

--Gary Lemco

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