Toscanini's 1953 performance of the Missa solemnis has always been a subject of controversy. When the old Record Guide (Collins: 1955) discussed the set, its two distinguished authors agreed to disagree. Edward Sackville-West found it "a thing of violent contrasts, feverish energy and a surface passion vociferously proclaimed", while Desmond Shawe-Taylor felt that "for sheer incandescence and drama the performance can seldom have been equalled". Looking at those views today, one could say that they aren't mutually exclusive. Both speak of the intense, subjective, edge-of-your-seat quality that informs the whole of this highly dramatic interpretation. Toscanini almost makes a virtue of those recalcitrant elements that allRead more conductors have to cope with in this work. The awkward corners are negotiated with purpose. The strivings for effects almost beyond the power of even music to express, the visionary, the serene components of the massive work are all incomparably expressed in Toscanini's reading.
Speeds can be controversially slow or fast: what matters is that they work within the context of the conductor's concept because he chooses a tempo for a special purpose, for a stark contrast, say, or to emphasize a detail. But, as so often with this conductor, particularly in relation to Beethoven, he often seems to be seeking some ideal that's in his head and which he knows he may never achieve in reality. In fact, some believe he did manage to come close to it in his 1940 account with the same orchestra but a different chorus, intermittently available (now I see on a Music and Arts CD).
His chorus here is the Robert Shaw Chorale. We tend to forget it was a professional chorus, which explains its virtuoso and tireless response to Toscanini's stringent requirements. When he insists, as so often here, on strict obedience to Beethoven's dynamic requirements-even noting the single triple forte in the Gloria at "omnipotens"-his singers respond, and the NBC Symphony is just as adept at providing a double piano when that's needed. The solo team is unfortunately not a patch on the 1940 lineup (Milanov, Castagna, Bjeirling and Kipnis): the singers are a shade anonymous and sound more so placed too far from the microphone, a disadvantage remastering can't correct. In every other respect the performance, although inevitably somewhat confined in effect, is an improvement over its LP manifestations.
-- Gramophone [3/1991, reviewing the Missa Solemnis]
[I]n the Ninth Symphony Toscanini achieves great heights. The first movement occasionally finds the octagenarian conductor impatiently rough-riding his basic rhythmic pulse, but the scherzo is tremendously virile, the slow movement exquisitely tender and powerful in turn, and the finale, with a good group of soloists and an excellent chorus, fervent and uplifting.
-- Gramophone [5/1990, reviewing the Ninth Symphony] Read less
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral"by Ludwig van Beethoven Performer:
Eileen Farrell (Soprano),
Nan Merriman (Mezzo Soprano),
Norman Scott (Bass),
Jan Peerce (Tenor)
Robert Shaw Chorale,
NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical Written: 1822-1824; Vienna, Austria Date of Recording: 1952 Venue: Carnegie Hall, New York City Length: 64 Minutes 43 Secs. Language: German
Missa solemnis in D major, Op. 123by Ludwig van Beethoven Performer:
Nan Merriman (Mezzo Soprano),
Eugene Conley (Tenor),
Jerome Hines (Bass),
Lois Marshall (Soprano)
Robert Shaw Chorale,
NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical Written: 1823; Vienna, Austria Date of Recording: 1953 Venue: Carnegie Hall, New York City Length: 74 Minutes 42 Secs. Language: Latin
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
Highly RecommendedNovember 18, 2014By M. Bishop (Clackamas, OR)See All My Reviews"For decades I have had in my library Volume 1 of Toscanini playing Beethoven's symphonies, and I have now acted to complete the cycle of symphonies as performed by Toscanini. I also have in my library the Beethoven symphony cycle as performed by Herbert von Karajan and the BPO. The sound is as good as can be expected from the original, monophonic reproduction of the music. The performances are crisp and clear; the instrumentation and vocal performances (in the ninth symphony) are excellent, even by today's standards. I highly recommend this set to those seeking an earlier rendition of Beethoven's symphonies."Report Abuse
Beethoven's & Toscanini's Genius in Greatly ImproDecember 16, 2011By T. Drake (South Euclid, OH)See All My Reviews"Like other listeners, I was skeptical when these new CDs were issued. My thoughts were that the early 1990s Complete Toscanini reissue was probably the best that could be humanly done to restore the very pinched and nasal sounding originals. Since I had already bought half of that set, I wasn't about to spend more of my hard-earned money on a marginally improved RE-reissue. I was wrong. In 1997, RCA totally reorganized and inventoried its massive vaults, which had been in disarray for decades. As a result, many original sources which had been declared "lost" were now "found." This new remastering is strikingly improved sonically over all earlier issues. Utilizing the best technology now available, RCA has also done the right thing by hiring a musician--conductor Ed Houser--rather than whiz-bang technicians to supervise the remastering. The NBC Symphony Orchestra now sounds better than ever before, with smoother strings, fuller winds, and less blotting out during fortissimos.
Perhaps no conductor of the 20th Century has been as misunderstood as Arturo Toscanini, as evidenced by the critical backlash with which he was assailed in the years after his death. That criticism was partly in reaction to the equally unbalanced adulation heaped upon him during his lifetime. I remember once mentioning to an acquaintance my admiration for Toscanini's Beethoven and Brahms, and he shot back, "He conducts everything too fast!" In fact, in comparison with other recordings and broadcasts of his era, Toscanini's conducting was not generally faster than average. In relation to TODAY'S phlegmatic tempos, however, Toscanini's pacing is definitely brisk. But what most people are hearing as fast is, in fact, Toscanini's characteristic rhythmic vitality and, occasionally, drive, which brings the faster movements to sparkling life. Likewise, the slow movements are never dragged, but rather glow with Italianate warmth.
RCA does not credit the liner notes, but they are reprints of Mortimer H. Frank's excellent notes originally written for the early 1990s CD release.
RCA has so far only released Toscanini's core repertoire with the NBC Symphony--but they are more than welcome additions to the catalogue. The Maestro's recordings with the New Your Philharmonic, and The Philadelphia Orchestra should also be remastered, post-haste. Then, RCA, which has given us magnificent reissues of Kapell and Rubinstein, should get to work and replace their thoroughly botched Vladimir Horowitz reissue from the 1990s, using this magnificent Toscanini reissue as a template. "Report Abuse
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