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The "apotheosis of the dance" There is not a slow movement in the seventh, even the famous slow movement, encored at the first performance is, in fact, an andante (moderately slow). So the overall sense is one of swiftness which can cause problems in the balance of tempi between sections. These crop up especially in the first and the scherzo. the symphony commences with a long introduction Bars 1- 62 which takes us from A major to C major and this is in 4/4 time but then after a short bridge transitions to the 6/8 of the main allegro Un poco sostenuto. This is a matter of taste but Cantelli does rather subject this to a degree of portentousness which is somewhat at odds with what follows, and results in a certain lack of tension which is more than made up for later. Performances of the 7th tend, exaggerating a bit, to fall into two camps the "lave flow down the mountainside", the full dyonisian in the manner of Toscanini (of whom Cantelli was a pupil) or Karajan as against the more lyrical approach of say Krips or Rattle. Cantelli, as one might expect, falls rather into the former camp the last two movements are particularly pell mell supported by some virtuoso playing from the Philharmonia. However he doesn't quite achieve the joyous radiance intrinsic to the piece. I am being rather critical here but this is a very fine performance and in my view superior to its near contemporary, Karajan with the same orchestra on the same label but in mono. This brings me to what is historically important about this recording. It is the only stereo recoding that Cantelli ever made. The recording must also be one of the earliest stereo recordings made, dating from the mid 1950's. And very good it is two. There is a convincing coherent sound stage with the elements of the orchestra clearly laid out, first and second violins divided left and right, The acoustic ambiance provides both warmth and clarity. So there you have it, the only stereo recording made by a famous conductor who died in an airplane crash at a tragically young age. The sonic refurbishment is very effective and this historic recording re-emerges in probably rather more than all its previous glory.
Both Cantelli's Beethoven 7 and Szell's Beethoven 8 are welcome, as neither is available in high definition elsewhere. The paring makes a certain sense, as both conductors could be seen - up to a point - as heirs of Toscanini, but it is still mildly disappointing that the we couldn't have a full Cantelli album. Hopefully this will be rectified with the new mono series. The sound is up to the usual high standards of the website.
Description:Title: Beethoven Symphony No. 7 and No. 8
Artist(s): Guido Cantelli & The Philharmonia Orchestra
George Szell & The Cleveland Orchestra
Recording Info: Symphony No. 7 Recorded by EMI
Date of Recording: 05/1956 / Kingsway Hall, London
Transferred from a EMI LP
Symphony No. 8 Recorded by Columbia
Date of Recording: 1962 / Severance Hall, Cleveland, Ohio
Transferred from a Columbia 4-track tap