Guido Cantelli : The Complete Concert of His 30th Appearance with the NBC Symphony Orchestra = SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, “Unfinished”; BRITTEN: Sinfonia da Requiem; WAGNER: Rienzi Overture – NBC Symphony Orchestra/Guido Cantelli – Pristine

by | Jun 25, 2009 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Guido Cantelli : The Complete Concert of His 30th Appearance with the NBC Symphony Orchestra = SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, D. 759 “Unfinished”; BRITTEN: Sinfonia da Requiem, Op. 20; WAGNER: Rienzi Overture – NBC Symphony Orchestra/Guido Cantelli

Pristine Classical PASC169, 54:21 [www.pristineclassical.com] ****:


The live NBC broadcast from Carnegie Hall, Saturday, 3 January 1953 is herein restored in startling vividness by Andrew Rose and his XR process, the original tapes taken from the collection of Keith Bennett. Guido Cantelli (1920-1956) led the NBC more than any other conductor excepting Arturo Toscanini, the orchestra’s music director and Cantelli’s mentor and counselor. Noted for his tenacious energy and direct, chiseled style, Cantelli brings poignant, fervent drama to the scores he presents this afternoon, particularly the 1941 Sinfonia da Requiem of Britten, whose tempos closely resemble those that the composer would adapt himself (inscribed 1964).  The Dies Irae movement generates considerably savage energy, the galloping motifs often reminiscent of Berlioz’ Ride to the Abyss in The Damnation of Faust. The last section, Requiem aeternum, proceeds with a delicately somber gravitas, appropriate to the tenor of the piece, commemorating Britten’s parents, but just as relevant to the tortured spirit of the times.


Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, which begins the program, emanates less of a cosmic mystery (a la Furtwaengler) than a dark plea for humanity – virile and compassionate at once. Cantelli does not dawdle–no exposition repeat–and his low strings and woodwinds seem intent on reminding us of how much angst Schubert can communicate. Cantelli’s string attacks produce as much fear as they do beauty. The confrontation between violence and periods of reconciliation marks the first movement; and the second, marked Andante con moto, moves with its own, darkly valedictory purpose. The few moments of grace, the dialogue of oboe and flute, become swallowed up by Jonah’s great fish. The huge pedal points and “bucolic” dirge create a colossal, tragic effect, entirely compelling, a powerful testament to the dramatic proportions Cantelli could wring from devoted players.  

Wagner’s Rienzi became a staple for Cantelli, its opening A for trumpet less troublesome for the NBC than it had been for Monteux, who had to keep asking his player to “attack it.” The reply: “I am sir, but it keeps defending itself.” Cantelli bestows a wonderful girth to Rienzi’s aria, which carries the opening section, a liquid string sound accompanied by a rolling tympani. The music swells and recedes in waves of noble aspiration, its presentation of themes a clear adumbration of Tannhauser. The jagged string syncopations deliver a fierce struggle, relentless, leading to the huge tympani roll and the ensuing trumpet call and explosion. Listen to the purity of the cello line just before the strings play over palpitating horns and bass fiddles. The triumphal march dances with a muscular, renewed force and grace, balanced between Weber, Mendelssohn, and Meyerbeer. The sonic presence literally warrants our standing and cheering along with the ecstatic New York audience lucky enough to be there.

–Gary Lemco

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