Cantelli, Guido

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Cantelli, Guido

Cantelli, Guido, brilliant Italian conductor; b. Novara, April 27, 1920; d. in an airplane crash in Orly, near Paris, Nov. 24, 1956. A gifted child, he was given a place in his father’s military band when he was a small boy; appeared as organist at the local church from age 10, and made his debut as a pianist at age 14. He pursued formal studies with Pedrollo and Ghedini at the Milan Cons. He then was conductor of Novara’s Teatro Coccia in 1941, but was compelled to give up his post and join the Italian army in 1943. When he refused to support the Fascist cause, he was sent to the Nazi-run Stettin labor camp (1943–44); after being transferred to Bolzano, he escaped to Milan, but was captured and sentenced to death. He was saved by the liberation of his homeland in 1944. After World War II, he conducted at Milan’s La Scala; Toscanini heard his performances and was sufficiently impressed to invite him as guest conductor with the NBC Sym. Orch. in N.Y. He made his American debut on Jan. 15, 1949, and subsequently conducted there regularly. From 1951 he also made appearances as a conductor with the Philharmonia Orch. in London. Cantelli was one of the most gifted conductors of his generation. A perfectionist, he conducted both rehearsals and concert and operatic performances from memory. He was able to draw the most virtuosic playing from his musicians. A few days before his death, he was appointed artistic director of La Scala.


L. Lewis, G. C; Portrait of a Maestro (London, 1981).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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