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Schumann: Symphony No. 4; Debussy: La Mer; Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien, suite / Guido Cantelli (live, Edinburgh 1954)

Album Summary

>Schumann, Robert : Symphony no 4 in D minor, Op. 120
>Debussy, Claude : Le martyre de Saint Sebastien, symphonic fragments (arranged by Caplet)
>Debussy, Claude : La mer
Conductor Ensembles Composers

Notes & Reviews:

Highly respected by Toscanini, Italian conductor Guido Cantelli (b. 1920) started recording with the Philharmonia Orchestra for EMI in the early 50's but was tragically killed in an air crash in Paris in 1956. These very rare live recordings, carefully restored by Paul Baily and featuring the Philharmonia Orchestra, derive from the Music Preserved archive and have never been released before.

The Guardian, October 2012
The symphonic fragments from Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien - erotic almost to the point of indecency - are an absolute knockout, while La Mer is darkly turbulent...The Philharmonia's playing is inspired, and the audience goes berserk at the end of each piece. Essential listening.

American Record Guide, January/February 2013
La Mer is also given a gripping interpretation, all billow and surge. Coming between is a haunting, eerie Saint Sebastian rendered in quiet and luminous detail with excellent solos from the Philharmonia wind players - but concluding with a mighty bang. The three works resonate the more from being heard together in this striking and unusual program.

MusicWeb International
... even if you have some or all of Cantelli's studio recordings of these works don't pass by this release. This concert must have been a memorable experience with a great conductor leading an orchestra on sovereign form and we are indeed fortunate that the recordings have been preserved. The incandescent artistry of Guido Cantelli is communicated vividly through these three magnificent performances.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Usher Hall, Edinburgh (09/09/1954).


Cantelli Live at Edinburgh
In an age of great conductors, when giants walked the earth, he was perhaps the most promising newcomer. Hailed as Toscanini’s personally chosen successor, Guido Cantelli was much more than that: a gifted interpreter with an almost impossibly wide range of musical interests. Soon he was conducting the world’s greatest orchestras and embarking upon a remarkable series of recordings for two major labels: RCA and EMI—until it was all cut short by a plane crash in 1956.

Because he made only a handful of commercial LPs, each newly released broadcast tape is precious and reveals new aspects of his genius. This 1954 Edinburgh Festival concert, however, breaks no new ground. Cantelli recorded all of this music with this same orchestra on readily available EMI discs. And smaller labels like legend have issued outstanding Cantelli performances of this repertory, mostly in better sound than what we have here.

Compared to Cantelli’s EMI recording, ICA’s Schumann Fourth seems nervous and unfocussed. Tempos are brisk, and the phrasing is clipped. Consider the violin solo second movement. Mark Kluge, in his glowing booklet note, writes: “Leader Manoug Parikian (a Cantelli favorite) tosses off his solos in the Romanze with a fluency that bespeaks careful preparation.” In truth, Parikian’s playing is stiff and mechanical—perhaps the result of boredom from over-preparation. Cantelli was, after all, notorious for his relentlessness in rehearsal. Nonetheless there are many exciting moments here, from the majestic conclusion of the opening movement to the spirited finale, yet overall the performance lacks the coherence and logic of Cantelli’s splendid EMI disc.

The fragments from Debussy’s Martyre were among this conductor’s specialties, and he serves up a typically sensitive and colorful performance here. Cantelli was the master of the pianissimo. That, coupled with an unerring sense of drama, brings this wispy, often downright strange music to life. However Cantelli’s 1953 NBC Symphony performance, released on legend, is finer still. That recording boasts far more vividly detailed sonics, crisper playing, and a performance that is even more volatile and sharply focused.

With its abrupt transitions and extreme tempos, the opening movement of Cantelli’s ICA La Mer portrays a choppy sea on a particularly windy day. The music surges forward then, without warning, the energy evaporates. Ensemble balances are poor. The brass is almost always too loud and their playing is terribly crass. Yet Cantelli somehow manages to redeem himself in the final two movements. The irresistible playfulness of the scherzo leads to an exceptionally violent finale. He skillfully varies his tempos and obtains some brilliant playing from his orchestra—most notably the heroic brass and splashy percussion.

Perhaps the greatest liability here is the sound: dull and murky in the Schumann and only slightly more transparent in the two Debussy scores. This was originally a monophonic recording, but ICA has apparently attempted to create some kind of artificial stereo. In consequence, nearly all of the audio has been shifted to the left channel.

Submitted on 10/07/12 by Tom Godell 
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Works Details

>Schumann, Robert : Symphony no 4 in D minor, Op. 120
  • Conductor: Guido Cantelli
  • Ensemble: Philharmonia Orchestra
  • Running Time: 23 min. 25 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 1841
  • Studio/Live: Live

>Debussy, Claude : Le martyre de Saint Sébastien, symphonic fragments (arranged by Caplet)
  • Conductor: Guido Cantelli
  • Running Time: 20 min. 35 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Studio/Live: Live

>Debussy, Claude : La mer
  • Conductor: Guido Cantelli
  • Running Time: 22 min. 30 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Written: 1903-1905
  • Studio/Live: Live