Top positive review
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Magical performances from a wonderful orchestra and conductor
on 2 January 2013
The fascinating final CD of this box contains a documentary Remembering Guido Cantelli which recounts that he was not the easiest conductor for an orchestra to deal with . The rehearsal sequences illustrate his perfectionism and on occasions impatience . The performances of Cantelli conducting the vintage early 1950s Philharmonia however are dazzling both in the sensational execution and the clear sighted yet deeply felt and immensely musical interpretations .
It is almost invidious to pick out individual performances . Throughout the woodwind and brass - with the legendary principals of this orchestra - takes your breath away. The strings have a rounded warmth , passion and delicacy seldom matched by any orchestra since .
The three movements of the Beethoven 5 are glorious who could have foretold that the noisy workmen next door would have deprived us of completion of what would have been one of the greatest ever recordings of the work , the Mozart is modern and stylish , the Brahms passionate yet light on its feet. The Mendelssohn and Schumann coupling is a particular delight. The Italian Symphony sunny as they come and a Schumann 4 of lofty inspiration on the same level as the Furtwangler . The Unfinished Symphony is a magic dreamscape and probably the best performance I have ever heard .
To my ears on a very slightly lower level of inspiration is the Debussy ( I prefer more sweep in the Barbirolli style) and the Beethoven 7 . That is not to say that they are not fine performances they just do not quite reach the exalted level of the rest . That cannot , however , be said of the Sorceror's Apprentice or the sparkling Falla or the Ravel Daphnis and Chloe Suite .
The Romeo and Juliet is an account of incendiary passion whilst the Pathetique is all the better for not being maudlin. The Siegfried Idyll showcases glorious horn playing from Dennis Brain as does the Brahms 3 ( shivers down the spine stuff in the Brahms).
One should not leave out the sizzling Tchaikovsky 5 from La Scala or the propulsive and wonderfully shaped Franck Symphony with the NBC Orchestra but it is the Philharmonia/Cantelli records that make this far more than just an interesting historical box. They play these central repertory works with such relish, beauty and magic that for anyone jaded at the thought of them should find that they fall in love all over again on hearing such inspirational and fresh accounts.
As for the Brahms 1 it is the finest account I have ever heard - the interplay between solo violin and horn in the andante is frankly beyond description in its beauty and it is so exciting from first bar to last . A realisation of the piece that one might dream about but never expect to hear .
My records of 2012 by a considerable margin . Cantelli was a terrible loss - what wonderful records might this combination have gone on to make ?
At £15 they are giving it away - it is worth ten times as much.