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Arturo Toscanini - Complete Stereo Concert Of March 21, 1954

Release Date: 12/26/2006 
Label:  Music & Arts Programs Of America Catalog #: 1194   Spars Code: AAD 
Composer:  Peter Ilyich TchaikovskyGioachino Rossini
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  NBC Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 58 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 6, “Pathétique.” Rossini The Barber of Seville: Overture Arturo Toscanini, cond; NBC SO MUSIC & ARTS 1194 (58:23)

This disc preserves Toscanini’s penultimate concert (March 21, 1954), which, along with his last one, was recorded in stereo. It is the stereo version that is offered here, so far as I know for the first time on CD. Those familiar with Read more these performances from monaural sources may be aware that they are, to say the least, controversial. In some quarters this “Pathétique” has been viewed as a paradigm of Toscanini’s finally having mastered the essence of a work that previously eluded him. Others, however, have more accurately assessed the entire concert (like the one that was to follow two weeks later) as an example of Toscanini’s loss of focus rooted in his looming retirement. Indeed, some of the musicians in the orchestra noted about this broadcast that he was “all there at the dress rehearsal, but not at the concert.” From the opening of the Rossini overture through many passages of the Tchaikovsky, one senses a tentative slackness that is utterly atypical of the conductor. Perhaps someday, we may have the dress rehearsal, which was also recorded in stereo.

Whatever one’s view of these performances, the key issue here is the sound, stereo being an especially welcome feature with a conductor like Toscanini, who was so much concerned with textural transparency. To begin with, it should be noted that the final two minutes of the third movement of the symphony are from a monaural source, the stereo source having been unusable at that point. The splice is perfect, but can be detected by the more distant (and I think more realistic) microphone placement for the single-channel version. The stereo, offering a flatter perspective with drier ambiance, nonetheless provides considerably greater spread and more sharply focused detail. One caveat, however, remains—this transfer has been subjected to excessive high-frequency filtering. But with a flexible 10-band equalizer that can provide considerable boost in the 6000 to 9000Hz. range, major improvements can be effected, sometimes astonishingly so. For the resulting sound alone, this disc is then worth having, particularly for some moments in the Tchaikovsky, which, if not up to the conductor’s best efforts, are still superior to those of some others.

FANFARE: Mortimer H. Frank
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 6 in B minor, Op. 74 "Pathétique" by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893; Russia 
Date of Recording: 03/21/1954 
Venue:  Live  Carnegie Hall, New York City 
Il barbiere di Siviglia: Overture by Gioachino Rossini
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1816; Italy 
Date of Recording: 03/21/1954 
Venue:  Live  Carnegie Hall, New York City 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Toscanini (mostly) in stereo December 16, 2011 By T. Drake (South Euclid, OH) See All My Reviews "One irony of Arturo Toscanini's recorded legacy is that the overwhelming majority of his recordings, acclaimed as they are, do not give an accurate picture of how he actually sounded. All of Toscanini's recordings were in monaural sound, except for his final concert, released several years ago, and this penultimate concert, finally available after having been "lost" for decades.

In his last two seasons with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, Toscanini had good days and bad days. His memory was fading, and the octogenarian conductor was at times simply not "in the moment."

As with nearly everything Toscanini did, the performances here emerge as faithful to the text. Contrary to revisionist myth, Toscanini's tempos generally became slower, not faster, in his last few years, which this performance demonstrates. Conceptually, these performances are similar to the more familiar Toscanini recordings, but there are differences in details. The Rossini goes well from start to finish. However, the Tchaikovsky doesn't really come to life until four minutes into the first movement.

Although the substantial mishap of Toscanini's final concert is avoided, not all the playing is tidy. There is a brief bauble early in the first movement of the Pathetique, and there are several intonation problems throughout the performance. Yet the sonority of the NBC Symphony under Toscanini was truly luminescent, even beautiful, which was not often captured in the mono recordings.

As for the sound itself, it's too closely miked, as was the case with Toscanini's final concert. As a result, not all the balances are as Toscanini intended, and there is no sense of hall ambiance. Additionally, the stereo tape for the last two minutes of the third movement of the Pathetique was spliced into a stereo demo reel and subsequently lost. The missing tape has been skillfully replaced with a clip from the mono broadcast and altered into simulated stereo. Yet this remains an invaluable document of the work of one of the greatest conductors of all time, and required listening for all Toscanini admirers. "
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