Toscanini took up Ravel's orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition very soon after it became generally available, and it remained in his repertoire until the end of his career. He clearly relished the work's virtuosity and colour, rather more, I think, than its evocative, dramatic qualities. His performance is very brilliant, quite extrovert in fact, but a little lacking in strong characterization. Even such a characterful piece as ''The Hut on Fowl's Legs'' is given a very straight, four-square emphatic reading, and only ''Catacombe'' conveys a vivid sense of atmosphere. I think a better recording would have conveyed a more favourable impression, but the sound is pinched and shallow.
Toscanini's interpretation of the EnigmaRead more Variations remains as controversial to traditional Elgarians as when he first conducted the work in London during 1930 (it had been in his repertoire since 1905). It was imaginative of RCA to partner the Mussorgsky Pictures with Elgar's ''friends pictured within''. Though the Elgar recording predates the Mussorgsky by over a year it is greatly superior, and has plenty of depth and sonority. I found the performance very satisfying. By and large it seems perfectly idiomatic to me, it is beautifully played, and has many imaginative and affectionate touches. Only three variations struck me as outside the norm. ''H. D. S-P.'' and ''Troyte'' move at a comparatively sedate tempo, which spoils their vigorous effectiveness. I was interested to find that Toscanini takes both movements at a conventionally faster tempo in his 1935 live performance with the BBC Symphony Orchestra (EMI, 2/88). In both performances his way with ''W. N.'' is a bit too brisk and lacking in warmth and humour. Otherwise there would seem little to offend traditionalists. Highly recommended.
Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36 "Enigma"by Sir Edward Elgar Conductor:
NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1898-1899; England Date of Recording: 12/10/1951 Venue: Carnegie Hall, New York City Length: 29 Minutes 14 Secs.
AN INTERESTING PAIRINGAugust 24, 2016By Dane Chamberlain (Pittsburgh, PA)See All My Reviews"I had these two recordings on separate Electronically Channeled to Simulate Stereo LPs back in the day; they were the only available versions of these monaural masterpieces and looking back, were the aural equivalent of colorized movies. The digitally cleaned up sound seems like new, and although some may find the maestro's Pictures a bit on the rigid side, he preferred to not just approach the work as a Sound Spectacular, which it indeed is...The Elgar was a work long beloved of him, and being familiar with the composer's own interpretation of the Enigma, I find Toscanini's more in keeping with Elgar's intent than I do a lot of English conductors recordings."Report Abuse