Cantelli: 29th Appearance with the NBC Symphony = BACH: Sinfonia from Christmas Oratorio; CHERUBINI: Symphony in D Major; R. STRAUSS: Death and Transfiguration – NBC Sym. – Pristine

by | Feb 9, 2012 | Classical Reissue Reviews

Cantelli: The Complete 29th Appearance with the NBC Symphony = BACH: Sinfonia from Christmas Oratorio; CHERUBINI: Symphony in D Major; R. STRAUSS: Tod und Verklaerung (Death and Transfiguration) – NBC Symphony/ Guido Cantelli – Pristine Audio 319, 58:22 [] ****:
The NBC Symphony concert of 27 December 1952 featured the gifted Guido Cantelli (1920-1956) at the podium, leading music appropriate for the season, as in the Sinfonia from J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (c. 1735), but also the infrequent Symphony in D Major by Luigi Cherubini. The Sinfonia, beautifully paced, moves in the manner of a siciliano, permitting the NBC flutes and strings to suggest a company of angels, while the oboes represent pious shepherds; and so the two forces blend as mortal and immortal energies collaborate for the festivity of the Nativity.
Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842) resided in Paris for most of his creative life, composing the Symphony in D in 1815. Although Cherubini distinguished himself mainly in religious music, his only venture into the symphonic realm demonstrates considerable prowess in the distribution of melodic and contrapuntal forces; and the work admired by Beethoven became cherished by Toscanini and his chief protégé Cantelli. Cantelli urges the opening movement: Largo; Allegro with verve and electrified energy, the rocket figures easily competitive with elements in Haydn’s “London” Symphony. No small credit is due the NBC tympani section. The Carnegie Hall venue aids considerably in retaining the warmth and sonic resonance of the ensemble, too often diluted by Studio 8-H sonic limitations.
After the “intrusion” of audience applause at the close of the first movement, the Larghetto cantabile reveals Cherubini the singer of sweet luxuriant harmonies. Mozart and Schubert appear to have influenced the arioso style of the movement, although an occasional outburst suggests the presence of the dramatic stage or Beethoven. The NBC bass line exerts considerable force, again in the context of rocket figures. The woodwind complement introduces a sunny interlude, a cassation of beguiling transparency. The Menuetto: Allegro non tanto exudes a rough-and-tumble Haydn character, rustic and rife with syncopations. The middle section of this scherzo-but-for-name-only lavishes upon us some wonderful antiphonal effects, perhaps attributable to the deft wit of Rossini. The brilliant Allegro assai that concludes the work utilizes a number of muscular effects that Beethoven and Haydn had already employed, but here resonating with an original energy. The clarity of Cantelli’s line, its polyphonic transparency, speaks volumes of the NBC’s response to this talented maestro.
It has to seem ironic that the Death and Transfiguration (1889) Cantelli renders here in 1952 would provide at least one memorial for him four years later, under Mitropoulos. We have precious little Richard Strauss by way of Cantelli, but from the outset, this reading of the music inspired by Ritter’s poem conveys sobriety and linear directness of purpose. Harp, violin, and flute initiate any number of nostalgic spasms from the dying subject, the tympani in dire opposition to the poetic flights of sentimental fancy. Commentators  have noted how Cantelli’s approach often moves to a more Germanic color than that of his mentor Toscanini, and that Cantelli occasionally extends into the mystics of Furtwaengler territory. The Allegro molto agitato section, particularly, explodes with a feverish girth that has more of Wagner than Verdi. The ardor and bitter travail of the Meno mosso series of recollections juxtaposes heroic impulses against the inevitable concessions to the mortal coil. The NBC brass, Harry Glantz and company, shines with an especial luster. Cantelli segues to the final Moderato section under protest, refusing to “go gently into that good night.” Even among the many Cantelli treasures, this restoration by Andrew Rose defines itself as a recording of special merit.
—Gary Lemco

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