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Toscanini: Christmas Day 1937 & Farewell Concert 1954

Toscanini / Vivaldi / Mozart / Brahms / Nbcso
Release Date: 06/14/2011 
Label:  Guild   Catalog #: 2369/70   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Spoken WordAntonio VivaldiJohannes BrahmsRichard Wagner,   ... 
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 2 Hours 22 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



BRAHMS Symphony No. 1. MOZART Symphony No. 40. WAGNER Lohengrin: Act I Prelude. Siegfried: Forest Murmurs. Götterdämmerung: Dawn and Siegfried’s Rhine Journey. Tannhäuser: Overture and Bacchanale. Die Meistersinger: Act I Prelude Read more class="EXTRAS12">& Arturo Toscanini, cond, NBC SO GUILD 2369/70, mono (2 CDs: 142:13) Live: New York


& VIVALDI Concerto grosso in d, op. 3/11


This release comprises an unusual pairing of two complete events: Toscanini’s last concert (the Wagner items from April 4, 1954) and his debut appearance with the NBC Symphony on Christmas night, 1937. Both are significant documents, but for markedly divergent reasons. The prize of the earlier one is an extraordinary account of the Brahms Symphony No. 1. Many readers may be unaware that this work did not enter Toscanini’s repertory until 1930, when he led it with the New York Philharmonic. We cannot know what that performance was like, but I would guess it was radically different from his most familiar account, the second (1951) of his two studio recordings of the work. Key features certainly set this 1937 effort apart from that one. For one thing, this broadcast features far greater rhythmic flexibility with a rubato that the conductor later rejected. And it does not include the readjustment of balances through the doublings and the occasional rewriting of individual parts that Toscanini imposed later. Yet despite its greater rhythmic freedom, nothing in this 1937 account ever sounds fractured, awkward, or tasteless. Rather, it is potently intense, beautifully shaped, and, if less streamlined than the 1951 recording, a compelling performance in every way. One caveat remains: the airless acoustic of studio 8H. It is as dry and dead as in the worst of RCA’s efforts in that venue. But its saving grace is a far wider frequency response, greater dynamic range, and quieter background than RCA produced in the studio prior to 1940.


The other two works on the program command less interest. The Vivaldi is the first of two performances of the work Toscanini gave at NBC. (The other was during his last NBC season.) Omitted in Guild’s editing of the introductory announcement by commentator Howard Klaney is his statement, “Very little is known about Vivaldi.” I mention this because it serves as a reminder of how comparatively narrow the view of the Baroque era was c.1938. And Toscanini’s performance, if not meeting today’s standards of early 18th-century “authenticity,” offers in its pared-down ensemble something far closer to the ethos of that period than to what some other conductors of 75 years ago were favoring. The Mozart is not significantly different from either of Toscanini’s two studio accounts. He called the work “great tragedy,” but as he projected it in all of his performances, it seems like a Sturm und Drang drama. Some may find it too fierce, especially when heard in the acoustic vacuum of 8H. But, as a document of a consistent point of view, this performance is worth hearing.


Solely on musical grounds, the farewell Wagner program is less valuable. As his retirement grew closer, Toscanini had become increasingly distraught. He had canceled what would have been his penultimate appearance and abruptly walked out of the rehearsal for this final one before it was completed. Everyone at NBC was on edge, anticipating that a problem might arise at some point in the broadcast. And so it did in the Tannhäuser excerpt, where Toscanini had a brief memory lapse and stopped conducting. (This lapse did not occur, as the erroneous insert notes here claim, in the succeeding Meistersinger Prelude.) Toscanini stopped beating, and Guido Cantelli, sitting in the control room, said, “Cut if off.” Announcer Ben Grauer interrupted, citing “technical difficulties,” and the opening of Toscanini’s 1951 recording of the Brahms First Symphony was substituted. First cellist Frank Miller had picked up the beat, and Toscanini shortly thereafter regained control. The audience, however, knew nothing of what was going over the air. What is featured on this release is the uninterrupted performance as heard by the audience in the hall. After leading the Meistersinger Prelude, Toscanini walked off the stage, and refused to take any bows. As a document of a sad event, this release may command interest. But the performances certainly lack the nuances that stamped Toscanini’s finest efforts with Wagner. And the very close microphone placement that NBC favored for the event is more suggestive of 8H than of Carnegie Hall. But for the 1937 broadcast alone, this release is worth having. For Toscanini’s admirers, it is essential.


FANFARE: Mortimer H. Frank
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Works on This Recording

1.
Opening Announcement by Spoken Word
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Date of Recording: 12/25/1937 
Venue:  Studio 8H, Radio City, NY 
Length: 0 Minutes 45 Secs. 
2.
Concerto for 2 Violins and Cello in D minor, Op. 3 no 11/RV 565 by Antonio Vivaldi
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1711; Venice, Italy 
Date of Recording: 12/25/1937 
Venue:  Studio 8H, Radio City, NY 
Length: 12 Minutes 8 Secs. 
3.
Symphony no 1 in C minor, Op. 68 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1855-1876; Austria 
Date of Recording: 12/25/1937 
Venue:  Studio 8H, Radio City, NY 
Length: 41 Minutes 19 Secs. 
4.
Lohengrin: Act 1 Prelude by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1847; Germany 
Date of Recording: 04/04/1954 
Venue:  Carnegie Hall, NY 
Length: 8 Minutes 22 Secs. 
5.
Siegfried: Forest Murmurs [Instrumental] by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1871; Germany 
Date of Recording: 04/04/1954 
Venue:  Carnegie Hall, NY 
Length: 8 Minutes 46 Secs. 
6.
Götterdämmerung: Dawn and Siegfried's Rhine Journey by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1874; Germany 
Date of Recording: 04/04/1954 
Venue:  Carnegie Hall, NY 
Length: 12 Minutes 16 Secs. 
7.
Tannhäuser: Overture and Venusberg Music by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1845/1861; Germany 
Date of Recording: 04/04/1954 
Venue:  Carnegie Hall, NY 
Length: 25 Minutes 21 Secs. 
8.
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: Act 1 Prelude by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1867; Germany 
Date of Recording: 04/04/1954 
Venue:  Carnegie Hall, NY 
Length: 9 Minutes 20 Secs. 
9.
Symphony no 40 in G minor, K 550 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Period: Classical 
Written: 1788; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 12/25/1937 
Venue:  Studio 8H, Radio City, NY 
Length: 22 Minutes 23 Secs. 

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