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Guido Cantelli conducts Debussy & Schumann

Debussy: La Mer
Debussy: Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien - Fragments symphoniques
Debussy: Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien: Suite
Schumann: Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op. 120

Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 9 September 1954

Philharmonia Orchestra, Guido Cantelli

The extraordinarily gifted Guido Cantelli (1920–1956) was born in Novara, Italy.

After studies at the Milan Conservatory, he returned to Novara in 1941 to become conductor and artistic director of the Teatro Coccia which had been founded by Toscanini. After the war, in which he served in the Italian Army, he started to conduct the La Scala Orchestra in Milan and appeared with other European orchestras. In 1948 Toscanini, who held him in the highest regard, invited him to be a guest conductor with the NBC orchestra in New York. From 1949 each year, Cantelli conducted the NBC, the New York Philharmonic and Boston Symphony orchestras. In 1950, he was at the Edinburgh Festival and in 1951 Lucerne, Salzburg and Venice Festivals. He started recording with the Philharmonia Orchestra for EMI but was tragically killed in an air crash in Paris in 1956. Walter Legge wrote, ‘no other conductor in the history of the art has established, so early in life, so wide a fame’. While studio recordings validate that encomium, none quite captured the incandescence of his live performances.

These important and very rare live recordings featuring the Philharmonia Orchestra derive from the Music Preserved archive and have never been released before. They have been carefully restored by Paul Baily.

The Glasgow Herald stated that Cantelli’s Schumann nearly raised the roof with its excitement but it also noted ‘the plasticity of line and transparent textures’. Debussy’s Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien was a Cantelli speciality and was noted by the Glasgow Herald for ‘its breathtaking moments’ which held the audience in rapt silence. Similarly, Debussy’s La Mer got praise for the conductor’s feeling for orchestral colouring and ‘rhythmic exactitude that mark the conductor at his best … There is no mistaking the greater impetuosity and attack in the Edinburgh account compared to the Kingsway Hall recording made four days later.’ (Mark Kluge)

These performances offer an intimate glimpse of a wonderful partnership between Cantelli and the Philharmonia Orchestra which was so tragically cut short.

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