The success of his second year brought about another re-engagement, and during the 1950-51 season Cantelli was guest conductor for eight concerts at NBC and appeared with several other major symphony orchestras, including the Pittsburgh Symphony and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestras. In the 1951-52 and 1952-53 seasons he again conducted the NBC Symphony Orchestra, appearing for eight weeks each season. During those years he also made highly successful guest appearances with the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra for four weeks. His concerts last year with the Boston Symphony and Chicago Symphony Orchestras were equally outstanding. 


Cantelli was born in Novara, Italy, on April 27, 1920. His father, Antonio Cantelli, was a military band leader. The boy’s first contacts with music were made through his father’s work. He not only studied the piano under his father’s direction, but also had opportunities to direct the band. At the age of five, Cantelli conducted the band, but he says «in reality the band conducted me».

As a child, he sang in church. Then, too, he learned to play the organ, with Felice Fasola, the organist, as his teacher.

At 11, Cantelli played the keyboard instruments durino opera performances. At 14 he received a piano diploma from the Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi in Milan. The following year he started private study of composition with Paolo Delachi, and soon thereafter was directing a chorus in Novara. At this period he became deeply interested in the early music of Italy, an interest which persists today and is evident in his choice of programs.

He entered the Conservatory in Milan at the age of 18 for the study of composition. There his teachers were Arrigo Pebrolo [Pedrollo] and Giorgio Ghedini. During that time he also played in the orchestra of the Carlo Coccia Theatre in Novara. In his final year at the Conservatory, he conducted three concerts, including a number of his own compositions. A piece titled simply “Theme and Variations” was highly successful, but Cantelli had decided on conducting as his career rather than composing.

In 1941 he conducted opera in his home town, Novara. The first opera was Verdi’s “La Traviata”. For two years he conducted much of the standard operatic repertori, and also a number of concerts at Novara.

In 1943, he was taken into the Army along with his father. Both of them refused to cooperate with the Germans and were sent to a prison camp in Germany. Guido remained in Germany until 1945. He had had no contact with music during the two years, and returned to his country virtually a living skeleton. He managed to escape from a hospital in Bolzano and returned to Novara.

On April 28, 1945, he married his sweetheart of schooldays, Iris Bilucaglia, a young artist who i salso an amateur pianist and musician. They went to Milan and in July 1945, Cantelli made his first appearance conducting the orchestra of La Scala, which was then appearing at the Castello Sforzesco due to the wartime damage to the La Scala Opera House. Immediately afterwards, he directed the symphony orchestra on Radio Torino. Subsequently he embarked on a tour conducting operas in various cities.

In 1946, he again conducted in Torino, and the symphony orchestra of Santa Cecilia at the Basilica di Massenzio in Rome, and also at the Festival of Venice. After the appearances at the Festival, where he had great success, he received many invitations to conduct symphony orchestras in various parts of Italy. He directed concerts all over Italy.

He first met Toscanini in 1946 when the veteran conductor returned to Italy to reopen the rebuilt La Scala Opera House with an orchestral concert. Durino the next several years Cantelli continued to direct in many Italian cities as well as in Austria and Belgium.

On May 18, 1948, while conducting a rehearsal for a concert at La Scala, Toscanini sat in the auditorium and observed the young man at work. Toscanini attended all of the subsequent rehearsals as well as the concert. Several days later Cantelli was invited to come to America as a guest conductor of the NBC Symphony Orchestra.

During the first season with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, he made his first recording for RCA Victor. The selection was Haydn’s “Symphony n. 93”. He also appeared with the Philadelphia Orchestra as guest conductor in two concerts.

On his return to Europe, he resumed concert work in Italy and other countries. After his second season in this country, he took the orchestra of La Scala to England, where he achieved new triumphs.

Back again in Italy, he toured with La Scala orchestra in many Italian cities. Before returning to the United States for the 1951-52 season, he had a busy Summer season conducting in Europe, including appearances at the Festival of Britain.

Cantelli, at the age of 33, is a fiery, hard-working, serious musician. His deep insight into the music and careful preparation have won him the respect and admiration of the musicians with whom he has worked.

He is a slender, handsome, young man who works intensively and with concentration. But in his off-the-podium moments of relaxation, he has a broad sense of humor and a deep love of fun. His musical tastes embrace a wide field. His interest in the 17th and 18th Century composers is matched by his interest in the music of contemporary composers, both here and abroad.

NBC-New York, 30/10/1953 FWK







Copyright © 2012 I.S.S.M. Conservatorio Guido Cantelli di Novara

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