Guido Cantelli at the NBC = GHEDINI; CASELLA; TCHAIKOVSKY – Pristine Audio

by | Aug 1, 2022 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

Guido Cantelli at the NBC = GHEDINI: Pezzo concertante; CASELLA: Paganiniana; TCHAIKOVSKY: Romeo and Juliet – Fantasy Overture – Pristine Audio PASC 663 (57:21) [www.pristineclassical.com] ****:

Connoisseurs of orchestral conducting continue to lament the untimely passing of Italian maestro Guido Cantelli (1920-1956), whom Arturo Toscanini considered as his legitimate, artistic heir. Pristine’s Andrew Rose has restored an early, second appearance of Guido Cantelli before Toscanini’s NBC Symphony Orchestra, 22 January 1949, using Pristine’s XR and Ambient Stereo sound process to correct various pitch and sonic distortions. The result is an hour of fine music-making that, for the majority of the program, pays homage to Cantelli’s own pedagogy and the Neo-Classical Italian tradition much indebted to Respighi.

The opening work, the Pezzo concertante for 2 Violins, Viola, and Orchestra by Giorgio Federico Ghedini (1892-1965), exploits a syntax derived from Ghedini’s love for antique music, coupled with a natural capacity for romantic expression. With violinists Mischa Mischakoff and Max Hollander, and principal violist Carlton Cooley, Cantelli delivers the first American performance of the work with a sense of resolve based on an intuitive feeling for the music’s structure. The 16-minute piece, in one movement, moves in the antiphonal style of a concerto grossso, alternating the large, ripieno grouping in contrast to the concertino. At times, the music feels like an outdoor but intimate serenade; in its more richly textured moments, the music emanates an ardent, passionately ceremonial character. After some ten minutes, the music assumes a sudden, dramatic impulse that leads to dialogue of strings and muted brass over a tympanic pedal. The music assumes at the coda a lyric character whose suspended harmonies might echo Gabrieli or the gentle urgings of Palestrina. The piece is well received by the NBC audience.

Alfredo Casella (1883-1947) gained considerable note for his Divertimento for Orchestra, “Paganiniana,” Op. 65, composed in 1941 for the centenary of the Vienna Philharmonic. Casella took themes from various compositions by Niccolo Paganini, the legendary. 19th Century violin virtuoso. The energy of the opening Allegro agitato, utilizing four of the composer’s Caprices, sets a “satanic” mode in bravura color for the NBC players. As a contrast to the relative quietude of Ghedini, the effect proves a rude, even percussive, awakening. The second movement, marked Polacchetta, casts a militant seriousness (Allegro moderato) on the proceedings, its content taken from the last movement of a D Minor Guitar Quartet, Op. 5/3 by Paganini. The Romanza has its lyrical roots in the 1838 Larghetto cantabile, amoroso from the Sonata “La primavera,” with its depiction of Spring, via rustling strings and flute bird calls. The last movement resorts to the familiar gambit, a Tarantella, marked Presto molto, based on the 1815  Guitar Quartet in D Minor, Op. 5/1. The dance does not exhibit the same, natural exuberance of style that we find in Rossini or Mendelssohn, but rather has a “studied” character more in keeping with Busoni. The NBC audience, however, has applauded enthusiastically after every movement thus far, and the finale impels them to the same response.

Cantelli found Tchaikovsky’s 1869 symphonic poem Romeo and Juliet much to his taste, and he left several readings to posterity. The explosive drama and ardent passion in the music stand in grand contrast to the relative restraint of the New Italian School. The three main motives: Friar Laurence and his contemplative melancholy; the strife of the two Verona families; and the love music that has become literally synonymous with the composer’s name. Besides having conformed to mentor Mili Balakirev’s structural directives, Tchaikovsky incorporated his own leanings to Germanic counterpoint. The newly restored sound imbues the reading with a sleek, potent luster, especially in the NBC winds and brass. In a letter to his wife, Iris, Cantelli refers to the audience response as “immense.” Go listen.

–Gary Lemco

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