VIVALDI: The Four Seasons, Op. 8 – John Corigliano, violin/New York Philharmonic/Guido Cantelli
Pristine Audio PASC176, 44:26 ****:
Recorded 29 March 1955 in Carnegie Hall. This inscription of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons stands as Cantelli’s only commercial inscription (for CBS ML 5044) with the New York Philharmonic, predating to some extent, the major Vivaldi revival that Reginald DeKoven and others unleashed in the early 1960s. The ensemble I Musici recorded this popular music around the same time, their first commercial record. In this sonically gratifying restoration from Pristine, the engineer is our reliable Mark Obert-Thorn. At the time, Le quattro stagioni was a rare event on disc, and Cantelli–who had a penchant for old music as well as some neo-Classical moderns–would program the likes of Frescobaldi, Monteverdi, Gabrieli, and Albinoni into his diverse concerts. This, when Mitropoulos–at the helm of the New York Philharmonic–had made it his mission to expose New York to much of the post-Schoenberg generation of European and American composition.
Basically, the Cantelli approach throughout The Four Seasons is relatively slow, even a mite “stodgy,” to our jaded ears, used to brilliantly fast tempos. Cantelli treats the entire production as Baroque program music, militant or at least quasi-martial in conception, often showing off the unisono legato line that Mitropoulos often wrought from the Philharmonic. Whether to call Cantelli’s tempos “romantic” begets more controversy, but he definitely basks in the interplay of suspended strings and harpsichord continuo, witness the Adagio molto of the F Major “Autumn” Concerto. The poem accompanying this delicious music claims “the drunkards have fallen asleep.” Again, a deliberate marcato pace infiltrates the Allegro of Autumn, Corigliano’s digging hard into his upper strings. On the other hand, the Largo from the E Major “Spring” Concerto permits Corigliano to apply the Italian, singing style that marks his playing of Bruch or Tchaikovsky. The easy sway of the Danza Pastoraleevokes nymphs and shepherds, a tender idyll of natural and spiritual rebirth.
The F Minor “Winter” Concerto captures the treacherous ice and snow delineated in the accompanying sonnet, the violins staccato and Corigliano feverish in his solo part. Fine homogeneity of tone in the New York string section as the movement rocks with Nature’s might. The Largo over tripping pizzicati enjoys a lovely sonority, the drone bass under Corigliano’s cantilena that resembles “April Showers.” Nice pacing for the final Allegro, no dragging, and Corigliano’s rasping tone and etched double stops make a gratifying invocation of cracked ice. Cantelli sets up a brisk final Presto, even prestissimo, as his combined concertante forces sweep us to the kind of passionate peroration that made his performances consistently memorable.
— Gary Lemco