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Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
Icon: Guido Cantelli
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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.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 March 2012
Guido Cantelli was just 36 years old when he died in a plane crash in 1956.
Its amazing to think that during his short career, he was the defacto principal guest conductor of four major orchestras:
The NBC Symphony, The New York Philharmonic, The Philharmonia Orchestra of London, and Milan's La Scala.

This box documents all of his EMI studio recordings with the Philharmonia Orchestra in excellent remasterings (many previously used on the Testament label). *
They are sensibly arranged in chronological order of composition - from CD 1 (Mozart + Beethoven) to CD 8 (Dukas, Falla, Ravel).
The perceptive booklet notes place every recording in context. The price is right.

Aside from the Philharmonia sessions, this box includes the EMI Tchaikovsky 5th with La Scala, plus Casella and Rossini with the St. Cecilia Orchestra of Rome (1949 - his first sessions).

Nice bonus: Because of a strange contractual loophole, you also get the RCA recording of Franck's D minor Symphony with The NBC Symphony.

The recordings are mono, with the exception of five symphonies recorded in stereo:
Beethoven #5 (minus the 1st movement which was unfinished at the time of Cantelli's death), Beethoven #7, Brahms #3, Franck D Minor, and Schubert #8.
The Franck Symphony was recorded in 1954 - very early in the stereo era. It has exaggerated stereo separation - not realistic concert hall sound, but fun to listen to over headphones. You're really aware of the second violins in the right channel.

[hint: for ease of navigation, read the review though to the end, then come back and click on the links.]

The 1951 recording of Mendelssohn's 4th Symphony is not included - Cantelli did not approve it so he re-did it in 1955, the version included here.
[That 1951 recording received its belated premiere in 1999 on the Testament label: Symphony No.4 ]

Actually the finale of that 1951 recording is included on "Remembering Guido Cantelli", a well-done radio documentary that is CD9 of this box.
It also includes two previously unissued rehearsal snippets from the Beethoven 5th and Ravel's Daphnis & Chloe.

This is a model of what these big boxes should be.

For the curious, Cantelli's complete NBC studio recordings can be had on a 2 CD Testament set: Guido Cantelli: The NBC Studio Recordings (1949- 54)
His broadcast performances with the NBC Symphony and the New York Philharmonic are available in boxes from Testament and Music & Arts.
The latter is significantly less expensive and sounds pretty good.

* Since writing this, it has been pointed out to me that EMI did not use the avaliable Testament remasterings for the Brahms 3rd or Tchaikovsky 6th /Romeo (or for the NBC Franck). Rather, they used earlier, less desirable EMI transfers. Apparently EMI used about 2/3 of the available Testament remasterings. A mystery. Still 5 stars (maybe 4 1/2), but I feel a bit foolish about my initial enthusiasm.
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on 4 April 2012
I received this set a few days ago and have been transfixed by the remarkable performances contained within. I know little of Guido Cantelli's life, other than the fact that Toscanini greatly admired the young conductor and the great tragedy of his life ending in a plane crash when he was aged just 36, in 1956. However, I do know genius when I hear it and these recordings leave me with little doubt that one is in the presence of true greatness. The rhythmic drive and explosive energy of his Beethoven is quite remarkable and the delicacy, gentle phrasing, detail and colour will take your breath away in the Ravel/Debussy recordings. His Brahms is solid then flexible - there's a mercurial quality that I can't quite yet put my finger on, but this is Brahms conducting of noble breeding! Schubert's Eighth had me comparing Cantelli with Karajan - I prefer Cantelli's lightness of touch and dream-like rendering of the score - masterful! The Tchaikovsky "Pathetique" is a revelation! Everything in this box is of the highest quality and once I have familiarized myself with its contents further I will offer more detailed comment on the performances. But the music/Cantelli's conducting has cast such a spell over me that I just could not withold comment!

Sound quality of these recordings - most of which are mono - is very immediate, spacious and rich in detail, despite the advanced age of the recordings, and the Philharmonia at this time was one of the finest orchestras in the world - the quality of playing is beyond criticism. The NBC Symphony Orchestra gives a tremendously enjoyable performance of Franck's Symphony in D Minor - this is one of the few stereo recordings in the box and despite sounding a little thin it's good enough to do justice to Franck's masterpiece.

The set is being offered by amazon at a ludicrously low price and it gives no indication of the outstanding quality of the treasure held within this remarkable little box - this is high art; Cantelli is no mere time beater, but an artist of the highest calibre. Strongly recommended without reservation.
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on 25 August 2012
After you have listened to the 8 glorious CD's of music here, there is a wonderful almost one-hour documentary on Cantelli - which really puts a face on this uncompromising master. You will (I hope) have been transfixed by the sublime performances before, then the documentary means that you can better understand the man and his vision on subsequent listens. I am a general listener - about 50% of my listening is Classical, 50% other types of music. I like to seek out amongst the best in any genre, and for me Guido Cantelli is a revelation. Having recently been awestruck by Carlos Kleiber's recordings of Beethoven's 5th and 7th symphonies, I thought that I may be disappointed hearing other versions, but I wasn't. The only disappointment was that he never re-recorded the 1st movement of the 5th (missing here), before he died tragically young in a plane crash, extraneous noise from building work meant that it ruined the original recording. There is so much to recommend here - Cantelli's very fine ear for detail means that every phrase, every note of every piece is considered meticulously. These are 8 CD's of masterful, definitive performances and 1 CD of fascinating insight.
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on 23 March 2014
Deriving perhaps from his early tragic death, I have always harboured a warm friendly feeling for Guido Cantelli so it grieves me to give this a less than glowing report. I am prepared to concede that my expectation might have been pitched too highly and this was the cause of my disappointment or perhaps I already possessed too many fine versions of these same works. Anyhow if I have the urge to play any of them I would select from such as Karajan, Klemperer. or Bohm to name but a few who spring to mind. I found the Cantelli sound quality tempi and approach somewhat uninspiring. But to misquote Shakespear, " the fault might be in myself"
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on 16 March 2016
I first heard a recording by Guido Cantelli when in my teens ( 65 years ago). It was Beethoven's 7th Symphony on 12 inch vinyl, one of EMI's earliest stereo issues - I still have that disc. I was spellbound by it and have been a devotee of his conducting ever since. I cannot recommend this set highly enough. Buy it, you won't be disappointed.
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on 2 November 2012
Clarity, transparency are two words that I believe are the essence of Guido Cantelli as a conductor. I was already familiar with his supreme art before the purchase of this EMI box. Many years ago I bought an LP-set from the Arturo Toscanini Society called "The Cantelli Legacy" with many of his broadcast performances.

Great as this was this box with his commercial recordings in really fine transfers give you an even better and perhaps more accurate picture of his strength as a conductor. To choose any particular performance that shines is not easy but his delicate way with Debussy and Ravel are true gems.

Summing this short review up I urge anyone interested in great music making to purchase this box to find out what was lost with the tragic death of Guido Cantelli.

/Goran Sodervall
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on 22 March 2013
Don't be put off by the age of these recordings, nor by the fact that you have these works already -- perhaps many times over. You will wish Cantelli had not died young, that he had completed the recording of the Beethoven 5, that you had heard these records earlier in your life. I had only heard Cantelli as a teenager listening to a recording on Voice of America of a live recording of Beethoven's 7th Symphony with the NBC Symphony Orchesta - it was amazing. As it finished, in the instant before the applause, a man in the audience could be heard with a simple: "Wow!" The Beethoven 7 here is with the Philharmonia but just as "wow". The box overall is a revelation.
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on 10 August 2016
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on 8 March 2013
In the 1950/60 these recordings were often the recommended ones to get. Many of the performances were my introduction to these pieces. It was magical to hear them again especially the fine playing of Dennis Brain, who inspired me to become a horn player.The recordings have come up very well.
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