Classical music fans looking to expand their experience of the outstanding conductor Guido Cantelli will find this compact disc rewarding. All of the performances here were done in concert; three of them are not available on other sources. The selections offer a range of classical music from the Baroque (Vivaldi) to the early modern era (Roussel), along with the distinctive Mussorgsky/Ravel and slices of ripe Romanticism (Berlioz, Wagner).
This compact disc leads with its strength: Pictures at an Exhibition with the New York Philharmonic. Cantelli had done a studio recording of this showpiece staple with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, so this offers a comparison with that recording. The NYPO here sounds rich and responsive to Cantelli. The quiet, moody interludes in the music are nicely performed; the more pronouncedly dramatic passages are appropriately tingling. One can sense the extra tension and energy of a live performance, in comparison to the studio recording with the NBC Symphony Orchestra.
The Roussel Sinfonietta for String Orchestra is the other performance of note. This is a sinuous, sprightly performance of what can be a gossamer work.
A spicy bit of filler, The Rákóczi March from The Damnation of Faust, is the other exclusive on this compact disc. The Wagner tracks are from an NYPO concert one week before the Mussorgsky/Ravel. The rest of the selections are well-known recordings from NBC Symphony broadcasts.
Given the sources - broadcasts from the early 1950s - the sound is remarkably good, if on the dry side: clear, with plenty of presence (the bass range registers well), good dynamic range and almost noise-free.
This compilation is a nifty addition to the scanty Cantelli recorded legacy.
Those whose imaginations entertain speculation about What Might Have Been can consider the evidence here for what Cantelli's being Music Director of the NYPO could have meant for that ensemble. The NYPO management was very interested in Cantelli, who was the favorite of Toscanini. There is lingering debate about whether Cantelli would have stepped into the searing spotlight of Music Director. The NYPO was notorious as an aggregation of players with a willful bent - George Szell once referred to them as "Murderer's Row" - and the honeymoon period with Cantelli may have faded by the time that a replacement for Dimitri Mitropoulos as NYPO Music Director was being considered. The prospect of Cantelli being a sort of return of Toscanini by proxy ended with Cantelli's death in an airliner crash. Leonard Bernstein conducted the subscription concerts with the NYPO that Cantelli was scheduled to conduct, and some concerts later in that season. The rest is history.