REVIEW POTPOURRI – Composer: Brahms; TV Show: Killing Eve; Poet: Wallace Stevens

Wallace Stevens

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Brahms
2nd Piano Concerto

Artur Schnabel, pianist, with Sir Adrian Boult conducting the BBC Symphony; Victor, M 305, six 78 discs, recorded 1935.

Artur Schnabel

The leaflet for this set of fragile records contains a most intriguing opening paragraph:

“Johannes Brahms came by his love for music naturally, for his father ran away from home several times in order to pursue the study of music. Quite naturally when Johannes, born May 7, 1833, showed talent, his father was willing to give him instruction. Soon the boy was turned over to other teachers, one of whom lamented the fact that the youth would be a fine performer, ‘if only he would give up this everlasting composition.’ ”

Pianist Artur Schnabel (1882-1951) met Brahms once through his teacher in Vienna, Theodor Leschetizky (1830-1915), who numbered Polish pianist and patriotic freedom fighter, Ignace Paderewski (1860-1941), among his many later famous pupils; Schnabel’s encounter with Brahms was on a nature walk.

Schnabel left recordings of both Brahms Piano Concertos and a few solo pieces. What was always for me most uniquely captivating about Schnabel’s playing was its playfulness combined with very convincing and communicative musicianship, whether of Brahms or of this pianist’s large number of recordings of Beethoven Piano Concertos and Sonatas. Other pianists , for all of their wonderful qualities, rarely conveyed this playfulness, and spontaneity. Schnabel made the piano seem a very easy instrument to play well. A few missed or bad notes, let alone memory lapses, rarely phased him in concerts.

Schnabel moved to Berlin as a young man after several years in Vienna, feeling rightfully that opportunities for teaching and performing were greater there. He was a free spirit, he fathered an illegitimate daughter whom he didn’t know about for several years, he played pool until the middle of the night and slept until noon, and, due to limited finances, he would buy a beer at city bars in order to eat the free bread rolls with mustard for frequent meals.

The above recording has been reissued on CD and can be heard on YouTube.

Killing Eve

I highly recommend the very suspenseful and funny first two seasons of the BBC show, Killing Eve, starring Sandra Oh as the MI6 investigator, Eve Polastri, and Jodie Comer as a skilled assassin, Villanelle. These two characters develop a love/hate attraction that proves very distracting to their chosen profession.

Two other superlative performances in the series are Fiona Shaw as Eve’s supervisor, Carolyn Martens, and Henry Lloyd-Hughes as the devious billionaire, Aaron Peel. The series can be seen on the Hulu channel.

Wallace Stevens

American poet, successful Hartford Connecticut insurance executive and very conservative Republican Wallace Stevens (1879-1955) wrote poems that I found consistently tough to read and teach yet still fascinating. During a vacation in Key West, Florida, Stevens got into a fistfight with novelist Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) at a cocktail party and, being paunchy and portly, he was easily punched to the floor.

One worthwhile quote is from his poem, The Emperor of Ice Cream, one most apt for this time of year – “The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream.”

REVIEW POTPOURRI: George Szell

George Szell

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

George Szell

YouTube has made available an hour long September 1968, interview with the great former conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, George Szell (1897-1970), who raised that Midwestern group of 100 or more players from an already good level to world class during the 24 years of his leadership from 1946 to his death, due to a combination of heart attack and bone cancer, on July 30, 1970. Back when Time magazine still covered classical music in depth, it devoted a page to Szell’s passing and another to that of Sir John Barbirolli who died the day before Szell. (Interestingly, during the 1930s, Szell had a girlfriend who abandoned him to marry Barbirolli.)

During the course of the interview, originally broadcasted on the BBC with Decca/London record producer, John Culshaw, Szell talks about his childhood as a prodigy on the piano and his concert tours between his home in Vienna, Austria, and London, England. When he was 11 years old. His most vivid memory was shopping in London’s department stores which had far greater numbers of items for sale than those in Vienna. Although he could easily have made a successful career as a pianist, he decided he was too lazy to put in the required hours of daily practicing and would become drawn to conducting. During his youth, he also composed a sizable number of works but decided his own music would never equal that of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.

When he was 13, he studied for a while with German composer Max Reger (1873-1916) whose own music is tough listening at first but well worth additional hearings. Reger was also very obese and could eat more food than 5 people at a dinner party — a factor that, combined with his alcoholism, may have led to his early death from a heart attack.

Szell remembered Reger playing piano music with astounding delicacy and beauty. He also remembered him flinging around four letter words and asking young Szell to go in the hallway while he told dirty jokes to the older students.

At 19, Szell started working with composer/conductor Richard Strauss (1864-1949) at the Dresden Opera House. He told of two tendencies whenever Strauss conducted, whether it was the latter’s own music such as Salome or Don Juan, or Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. He would give a performance that was out of this world or be totally bored, looking at his watch with one hand and conducting with the other.

When Szell was negotiating with the Cleveland Orchestra board for his working terms as music director, he demanded autonomy with the hiring and firing of players and longer working seasons. Interviewer Culshaw, who had already been a friend of several years standing, jokingly commented of working with the conductor for the first time in a recording session in 1948 and of Szell’s reputation as a holy terror. Szell laughed in commenting that it was partially exaggerated. However, he did concede that players in Cleveland who were thinking they were set for life experienced a rude awakening when he demanded high standards because a conductor can’t have the nicest personality and build a world class orchestra at the same time.

Many Szell recordings and broadcasts can be heard via internet sources such as YouTube and Spotify. For beginning collectors, I would recommend the 1964 Mahler 4th Symphony, a recording of which I have worn out at least two copies, and the late ‘60s Brahms 2 Piano Concertos with Rudolf Serkin, both available inexpensively on compact disc.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: English writer H. E. Bates

H. E. Bates

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

English writer H. E. Bates

The prolific English writer, H.E. Bates (1905-1974), published his novel The Purple Plain in 1947 and it was made into a 1954 film starring Gregory Peck, of which I have only the vaguest memories when it was shown on one of the Sunday-Afternoon-at-the-Movies programs of Maine’s channel 8 during my youth of the very early ‘60s. The author spent some time in World War II Burma and was inspired to write this novel.

The main character Forrester is a very skilled pilot flying medical personnel and supplies around the country amidst dangerous conditions. He is also battling with his own personal demons and taking on very dangerous missions more out of a death wish.

The reasons lie mainly in losing his wife during a honeymoon dance at a London nightclub when a bomb lands on it from German warplanes. He miraculously survives but is tormented by the gamut of depression and survivor guilt since then.

He is already stationed in blisteringly hot Burma at a desert medical station, where he and a colleague Blore share a tent as their living accommodations, when the novel opens. He then meets a Burmese nurse Anna and their professional relationship starts to blossom into something special. Meanwhile a Japanese bombing raid has all hands on deck and Forrester is doing doctoring, too. But he and Anna are having joyful moments too and his will to live increases.

Halfway through the book, Forrester is flying himself, Blore and his navigator Carrington elsewhere when the plane crashes in the middle of the desert. All three men survive miraculously, but Carrington’s legs are badly burned; Blore and Forrester sustain some burns but are forced to carry the navigator while trying to walk 30 miles to safety with a thermos of water and little else for nourishment; and several chapters of survival in the desert ensue. The book concludes with triumph.

What makes the novel special was Bates’s gift with words ­– those details that kept me reading, that created sympathy for, and identification with, the characters. Examples abound but I only have room for a few:

“He felt himself to be lost in the center of a vast and dusty arena blistered by relentless sun.”

“Before he could say anything more, she turned away and began to walk back along the track. She turned and smiled for a moment and he lifted his hand, standing for a moment or two longer to watch her go.”

Now the last sentence of this 308 page novel.

“Outside, the plain was purple in the falling dusk, and the long day was over.”

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Puccini’s La Boheme

Giacomo Puccini

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Puccini

La Boheme

Arturo Toscanini conducting the NBC Symphony, chorus and soloists; RCA Victor, LM-6006, 2 LPs, from the radio broadcasts of February 3 and 10, 1946.

The inventor of the phonograph, Thomas Edison (1847-1931), was often accused of either being tone deaf or having no taste for music, two beliefs I consider to be mainly rubbish. He personally spearheaded a wide range of music on his cy­linder and flat disc record catalogs, that included popular singers, dance orchestras, country fiddlers, hymns, and operatic selections. With respect to the latter, he considered the opera La Boheme his favorite one of all and stated that the world is a better place because of its existence.

Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) based La Boheme on Scenes of Bohemian Life by the French writer, Henri Murger (1822-1861), an episodic novel based on the lives of starving writers and artists living in Paris, including Murger’s before he achieved fame and fortune with this book. Puccini’s friend, Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957), conducted the February 1, 1896, world premiere at the Regio Theater in Turin, Italy, and it was mildly successful, unlike later productions in which it caught on with the public, who took it to their hearts and continue to do so.

Arturo Toscanini

Fifty years after the premiere, Toscanini conducted this NBC radio broadcast, in which its four acts were split be­tween two Sun­days. It featured tenor Jan Peerce (1904-1984) as the poet Ro­­dolpho and soprano Licia Albanese (1909-2014) as the seamstress Mimi, with whom Rodolpho falls in love. Peerce was more gifted as a dramatic tenor but I feel his lyrical singing here was among the best I have heard in this role, right up there with Caruso, Jussi Bjoreling, Nicolai Gedda, Pavarotti etc.

Licia Albanese did her best singing in lyric roles and her Mimi was simply special.
The supporting cast, chorus and orchestra, under Toscanini’s divinely inspired leadership (with his constant, endearing, very audible humming), all performed as if their lives depended on it. Toscanini was notorious for his temper tantrums in rehearsals, often caused by wrong notes and the failure of the singers and instrumentalists to bring the same level of emotion he felt. What especially sets this Boheme apart from the other great ones was the vivid clarity of the orchestral details and their contribution to the vocal beauty.

To sum up, if there was one opera I would recommend for beginners, it’s this one.

Quote from the Maine writer/naturalist Henry Beston (1888-1968) in his 1948 book, Northern Farm, evoking the wondrous beauty sometimes found in the night sky: “It was the middle of the evening and in the north over a lonely farm, a great darkness of the forest, and one distant light, the dipper, stood on its handle, each star radiant in the blue and empty space about the pole.”

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Victor Red Seal recordings, Wagner, & Ernestine Schumann-Heink

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Victor Red Seal recordings

A few Victor Red Seal recordings from the years of easily breakable 78 shellac discs.
Bruckner Symphony No. 7; Eugene Ormandy conducting the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra; Victor, M-276, eight discs, recorded January 5th and 7th, 1935.

Before his 44 years as music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy (1899-1985) served in Minneapolis from 1931-1936 and made a number of records for Victor between January 16, 1934 and January 16, 1935. The 7th Symphony of Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) is a magnificent one of almost 60 minutes and scored for large orchestra with some of the most heavenly beautiful moments from a composer who was also a superb organist. When the Symphony was premiered in Vienna in 1886, the Waltz King, Johann Strauss Jr. (1825-1899), sent the following reply in a telegram – “Am much moved. It was the greatest impression of my life.”

Ormandy’s recording was one of tremendous beauty and power and still holds up well.

Wagner Die Feen Overture

Albert Coates conducting the London Symphony Orchestra; Victrola 11455, one disc, recorded in 1932.

Wagner completed his first opera, the infrequently performed Die Feen, when he was 20 years old. The Overture is decently listenable but far from the depths of his later masterworks. However, conductor Albert Coates (1882-1953) made a convincing case for it and drew tremendous playing from the London Symphony.

Coates was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, to an English businessman and his Russian-born wife and established a reputation in both England and Russia before World War I, serving as music director of the Russian Imperial Opera for five years before the 1917 Revolution. The Bolshevik government did keep him working but, by 1919, starvation threatened living conditions there, Coates fell ill, so he and his family left Russia, just barely making it to Finland and back to the United Kingdom.

Wagner

Rienzi Overture and Gotterdammerung Closing Scene; Leopold Stokowski conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra; Victor 6624/6625; 2 discs, recorded 1927.

Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977) was one of only two conductors (the other being his successor in Philadelphia, Eugene Ormandy) who recorded from the pre-1924 acoustic era to the four-channel quadraphonic one of the 1970s. Also, like his younger colleague, he left hundreds of recordings of an encyclopedic range of composers and some of his best records were the ones of the music of Richard Wagner (1813-1883). I cherish his Victor 78s of excerpts from his operas Parsifal – the Prelude and Good Friday Spell – and his Synthesis of Tristan and Isolde moments.

The above 1927 ones of Wagner’s heart-warmingly vibrant Rienzi Overture and the conclusion of Gotterdammerung (itself being five hours long and the fourth and last opera in the 16-hour Ring cycle) have a surging intensity, beauty and savagery that is implicit in the music itself, through which Stokowski doesn’t try to impose his own individuality and mannerisms as he did often in other recordings.

On June 14, 1912, Stokowski conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in an all-Wagner concert featuring the soprano Lillian “Lady” Nordica (1857-1914), who was born in Farmington, Maine, and lived her first eight years there.

Ernestine Schumann-Heink

Stille Nacht (Silent Night); Victor 88138, one disc, recorded 1908.

Contralto Ernestine Schumann-Heink (1861-1936) recorded prolifically, beginning as early as 1900 and her rich warmth and disciplined technique enabled her to sing very nicely through her last years, when she appeared at the Metropolitan Opera in Wagner’s Lohengrin at the age of 71, and had her own weekly radio show. Since I enjoy Christmas music any time of the year, preferably in small doses, I find this acoustic record from 112 years ago a good example of her ability to breathe new life into old songs and opera arias. Starting in the mid-1920s, she sang Silent Night on the radio every year during the Yuletide season.

During World War I, she gave concerts for the U.S. war effort and had three sons serving in our navy; she also had one son from her first marriage in Germany who was still living there and who was drafted into the Kaiser’s own submarine service.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Memories of Grandma

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Memories of Grandma

I am going to try something different this week but tie it into earlier reading, listening and viewing experiences, sharing a few memories of my grandmother, Annabelle Ingraham Cates (1888-1974).

Grammie Cates was born and brought up in the coastal village of Rockport, Maine, to Enos and Marian Ingraham. In 1906, she rode the narrow gauge to East Vassalboro where several kinfolks on her mother’s side had been residing already for 25 years, and she took a teaching job at the one room Perley Schoolhouse, one of about 20 such buildings in the Vassalboro territory, back during the years when teacher certification requirements were pretty well non-existent.

Within three years, she met and fell in love with Benjamin Harold Cates, married him and gave birth to 12 children, after her cousin, Lena Upham, told her, “He was a good catch.”

A longer bio will have to wait for another day so as to cut to the chase.

Despite her very busy life of being a wife, mother, homemaker, and chief disciplinarian with her not always angelic kiddos, she did find time to read. And the book that sticks out most vividly is her humongous Modern Library copy of the collected writings of that narrative genius, Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), which she read and re-read thoroughly from cover to cover. It included his four novels, The House of the Seven Gables, Blithedle Romance, Scarlet Letter and Marble Faun, of which, again, more another week. I remember her keeping it on a kitchen bureau for easy reach.

More about music. The first record that sticks out in the memories was Nelson Eddy’s 1948 Columbia LP of Stephen Foster songs – examples being Old Folks At Home, Camptown Races, Oh Susanna – which for my money is still one of the best collections of that early American composer (1826-1864) who, after several years of fame and fortune, would die as an alcoholic in poverty in New York City with just 37 cents in his wallet.

Grammie had a Columbia LP changer with a very heavy tonearm, a needle that was rarely replaced and a hookup through the expensive Dumont TV set with tremendous sound.

A mid-’60s Christmas present for her was an anthology of Ray Charles hits including Georgia On My Mind and Hit the Road, Jack! She was quite captivated by his sense of swinging while singing.

My grandmother’s favorite movie may have been the 1965 Sound of Music, which she, myself and other family members first saw during Christmas vacation of that year at the Westbrook cinema, where it stayed and made money for at least a year. Within the month, a cousin talked her into joining the RCA Victor Record Club, where new members could get five LPs for 99 cents, provided they purchased five more at list price. She purchased 10 copies of the RCA Victor Sound­track of the Sound of Music, kept one for herself and gave the other nine for birthday presents.

She introduced me to her favorite TV show, Wagon Train, during the spring of 1959, and was a big fan of its star, Ward Bond.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Twilight Zone

Rod Serling

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Twilight Zone

Episode 150, “Stopover in a Quiet Town,” first aired on CBS April 24, 1964.

I saw this episode when it first aired 56 years ago and again last night (Sunday, June 14) on Netflix. Before setting down any thoughts, I offer a plot summary.

A young urban couple, Bob and Millie Frazier, wake up in a strange bedroom after attending a countryside party and trying to take a shorter route back to the city. Things start getting weirder when everything in the house and outside village, including a tree, squirrel and patch of grass prove to be cardboard or paper and only a little girl’s voice can be heard. Any spoiler on the ending will not be provided.

Nancy Malone

I was alone at home during the first viewing and still remember being spooked out by its small town setting, so similar to my hometown of East Vassalboro, Maine, and to the other quiet, charming, boring villages of so many other childhoods; Twilight Zone’s creator and host Rod Serling (1924-1975) had an extraordinary gift for blending the terror and pity that was called for millenniums ago by the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, in his Poetics on Drama as essential to any narrative. Serling also used this episode and so many others as parables on the evil, injustice and bad behavior so consistently occurring in the world then and now .

Barry Nelson

Barry Nelson (1917-2007) and Nancy Malone (1934-2015) give A-plus performances as the couple in conveying the entire gamut of emotions, including bewilderment, hope, fright, frustration and endearing love and affection for each other. Nelson was eulogized by his agent as “a very believable, naturalistic actor;” Nancy Malone moved on to directing and producing and became the first female vice-president in charge of television at 20th Century-Fox.

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Verdi: Rigoletto

Giuseppe Verdi

Giuseppe Verdi

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Verdi

Rigoletto

Walter Goehr conducting the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, Chorus and soloists; The Opera Society, Inc.; M111-OP9; 2 ten-inch lps, recorded early-to-mid ‘50s.

Verdi’s Rigoletto, along with Aida, and La Traviata, are arguably his three most popular operas. It is also the only opera I have seen in any Met productions, once in their 1966 touring appearance at Cony High School, locally in Augusta, and in 2007 at the Lincoln Center stage in New York City (The pair of $25 tickets my daughter purchased had us sitting in the top row of the highest balcony where we could touch the ceiling standing up and everybody on the stage below were tiny ants.).

It received its 1851 world premiere in Venice and was composed in 40 days. The plot involves a depraved womanizer, the Duke of Mantua; his evil court jester, Rigoletto; and Gilda, the one decent person in this trio. A summary of the original Victor Hugo story line can be easily googled and is classic operatic melodrama and tragedy. The musical numbers include the immortal Questa o Quella and La Donna e Mobile for the Duke of Mantua tenor and the exquisite Caro Nome for Gilda’s soprano.

Soprano Hedda Heusser and tenor Paul Conrad are far from household names but they sang beautifully, and the underrated conductor, Walter Goehr, led a very good performance. The Opera Society, Musical Masterpiece Society and its parent label Concert Hall were mail order record labels, along with another subsidiary Jazztone, and I have found sizable numbers of their releases at yard sales and thrift shops.

I am not sure if this performance is on YouTube but others are, for those interested listeners. It is also a very good beginner opera for the adventurous.

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I started watching Netflix’s Narco this past weekend and am already on episode eight of the first season. The series dramatizes the career of the evil Pedro Escobar (1949-1993) whose criminal empire reigned over Columbia with terror until his just death in 1993 and of a fictitious DEA agent, Steve Murphy, whose narration provides historical context. Wagner Moura’s Escobar and Boyd Holbrooke’s Murphy are very well acted with a superb supporting cast, documentary footage of the last 50 years is interspersed and the production logistics are pulled off magnificently.

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I recently posted a selection by a native poet, Grenville Mellen. Here are the four quite nicely worded opening lines of his impassioned The True Glory of America:

“Italia’s vales and fountains,
Though beautiful ye be,
I love my soaring mountains
And forests more than ye.”

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Poet: Grenville Mellen; Singer: Connie Francis

Connie Francis

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Grenville Mellen

Biddeford poet Grenville Mellen (June 19, 1799- September 5, 1841) was the son of Prentiss Mellen (1764-1840), Maine’s first Chief Justice of its Supreme Court from 1820 to 1834. The son was admitted to the bar after reading law with his father, got married and settled in North Yarmouth, setting up his practice there in 1825. Within three years, his wife and only child died and his own health and will to live deteriorated during the remaining 13 years of his life, but he did eke out an already beginning literary career with poems, sketches and essays on a mostly free lance basis.

Grenville Mellen

Finally, out of desperation, he traveled to Cuba for his last summer, hoping the change of scene would improve his health. The trip didn’t help and he returned to New York where he died that fall.

The poems contained in the 1854 anthology, Native Poets of Maine, are somewhat overblown but they do contain lines that resonate. I quote the last of four stanzas in his Mount Washington:

Mount of the clouds! When winter round thee throws
The hoary mantle of the dying year,
Sublime amid thy canopy of snows,
Thy towers in bright magnificence appear!
‘Tis then we view thee with a chilling fear,
Till summer robes thee in her tints of blue;
When, lo! In soften’d grandeur, far, yet clear,
Thy battlements stand clothed in harmonious hue,
To swell as Freedom’s home on man’s unclouded view.

Being over 6,000 feet in the air and with its wondrous vistas, ferocious winds and bestial wintry weather, Mount Washington remains “sublime amid thy canopy of snows” and, during warmer months,”clothed in harmonious hue.”

Connie Francis

Among My Souvenirs;
God Bless America
MGM, K 12481, seven-inch 45 record, 1959 hit.

Now 82, singer Connie Francis wrote her autobiography in 2017, titled Among My Souvenirs, a song originally written in 1927, and a number one hit then for Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra, for Connie in 1959 and the last one for Marty Robbins in 1976. At her peak from 1958 to the late ‘60s, Connie Francis sang with such unique heart and soul; I still remember watching her sing Who’s Sorry Now in 1958 on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and exuding charisma.

The flip side, God Bless America, was sung, for once, with beauty, nice sentiment and savvy intelligence in Ray Ellis’s very good arrangement (he worked a similar miracle for Johnny Mathis’s A Certain Smile the same 1959 year.). All in all, a very good 45 record.

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Conductor: Felix Weingartner & Guido Cantelli

Guido Cantelli

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Felix Weingartner

Felix Weingartner

Felix Weingartner (1863-1942) was the first conductor to record all nine Beethoven Symphonies, and the four Brahms. He was friends with Liszt, Wagner and Brahms; was music director of the Vienna Philharmonic for over 20 years; composed large amounts of his own music; and taught and wrote about conducting and other musical and non-musical subjects, having a special interest in astrology, the occult and theater. He guest-conducted extensively to the U.S., Soviet Russia and Japan. Finally, he was married five times.

His most distinctive quality as a conductor was the naturalness of it; one felt as though he/she were hearing music as the composer wished it to be heard. I recently listened to a re-issued LP of his very good 1938 London Philharmonic performance of the Brahms 3rd Symphony, a piece that I recommend as the best one of the four for listeners experiencing Brahms for the first time. And this recording and sizable numbers of the others can be heard on YouTube.

Guido Cantelli

Guido Cantelli (1920-1956) was drafted into the Italian army, when it was forced to fight alongside the Germans against the allies during World War II. He refused to, out of a matter of conscience, and thrown into a labor camp; by pretending to be sick, he managed to escape and worked as a bank teller with forged papers until the war’s end.
Having already showing incredible promise before as a pianist – he was in a jazz combo for a while – and a conductor, he started again doing concerts and opera at various Italian venues, such as the La Scala Opera House in Milan, where Arturo Toscanini spotted the young man and was so impressed that he took him under his wing like a long-lost son and gave him concerts and recording dates in New York with the NBC Symphony.

As a conductor, he had a phenomenally high level of inspiration, passion, elegance and precision, much like Toscanini, Reiner and Szell and yet had his own individuality in terms of an ear for the most wondrous hidden sonorities in whatever piece he was interpreting. I am now listening to a superb 1954 recording of Debussy’s La Mer, a piece in three sections that evokes the movements of the sea. It can be accessed on YouTube by budget-minded music lovers who are not collectors, unlike me.

On November 24, 1956, just one week after he was appointed music director at La Scala, Guido Cantelli was killed in a plane crash just after taking off from Paris’s Orly Airport on his way to New York to conduct the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall. He was only 36 and left behind a wife and baby son. The 89-year-old Toscanini was never told of his death and passed away of a stroke on January 16, 1957, less than two months later.