Guido Cantelli (27 April 1920 – 24 November 1956) was an Italian orchestral conductor. He was named Musical Director of La Scala, Milan in November 1956 but his promising career was cut short only one week later by his death at the age of 36 in an airplane crash in Paris, France.
Born in Novara, Italy, in 1920, Cantelli studied at the Milan Conservatory and began a promising conducting career, which was interrupted by World War II, during which he was forced to serve in the Italian army, then placed in a German labor camp because of his outspoken opposition to the Nazis. He became ill and managed to escape the camp. He resumed his musical career after the Allies liberated Italy.
Arturo Toscanini saw Cantelli conduct at La Scala, Milan and was so impressed that he invited him to guest conduct the NBC Symphony Orchestra in 1949. In a note written to Cantelli's wife Iris in 1950 after four of these concerts, Toscanini said:
I am happy and moved to inform you of Guido's great success and that I introduced him to my orchestra, which loves him as I do. This is the first time in my long career that I have met a young man so gifted. He will go far, very far.
In the course of his brief career, he had conducted not only in many of the most famous concert halls of Europe but also in the United States and South Africa. Besides conducting the NBC Symphony from 1949 to 1954, Cantelli also guest conducted the New York Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the U.S. and the Philharmonia Orchestra in the UK.
He was named Musical Director of La Scala on 16 November 1956, but he died in the crash of LAI Flight 451 at Orly Airport in Paris, France only a week later, on 24 November. He was aged only 36. Toscanini, who was in failing health and died less than two months later, was never told of Cantelli's death.
At the time of his death, Cantelli was being considered as the next music director of the New York Philharmonic, as successor to Dimitri Mitropoulos; instead, Leonard Bernstein (who also guest conducted the NBC Symphony) was appointed conductor of the Philharmonic in 1958.
Cantelli left a small legacy of commercial and live recordings. Among these are recordings of Beethoven's 7th symphony and 5th piano concerto (with Walter Gieseking and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in Carnegie Hall from 25 March 1956), Schubert's 8th symphony, Brahms' 1st and 3rd symphonies, Franck's D minor symphony (with the NBC Symphony in Carnegie Hall in stereo from 6 April 1954),Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, Paul Hindemith's Symphony: Mathis der Maler, Liszt's 2nd piano concerto with Claudio Arrau, and shorter pieces by Ravel, Rossini, and others. He recorded Vivaldi's The Four Seasons with the New York Philharmonic for Columbia Records.
His one surviving opera performance is of Così fan tutte, from La Scala in 1956. There is also a live recording of the Verdi Requiem (with Herva Nelli). He conducted the Mozart Requiem at La Scala in 1950. There are live recordings with the New York Philharmonic of Beethoven's first and fifth piano concertos, with Rudolf Serkin as soloist, from 1953 and 1954, respectively.
The Franck, Brahms 3rd, Schubert 8th, and Beethoven 7th symphonies were among his few stereo recordings. Just before his death, Cantelli recorded the final three movements of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 for EMI, but did not record the first movement. In recent years, many performances from broadcasts and recording sessions with the NBC Symphony, from 1949 to 1954, have been made available.