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Great Conductors Of The 20th Century - Arturo Toscanini

Release Date: 07/27/2004 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 62939   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Hector BerliozJohannes BrahmsAntonín DvorákGiacomo Puccini,   ... 
Performer:  Helen TraubelNicola Moscona
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  NBC Symphony OrchestraBBC Symphony OrchestraWestminster Cathedral Boys Choir,   ... 
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 2 Hours 33 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

"One general but very important comment about the set spotlighting Arturo Toscanini (1867–1957) is that anyone whose sense of Toscanini’s work derives mainly from the familiar RCA recordings of the 1950s—which is to say, from the final years of his life, when the power and control evident in so many of the earlier recordings and broadcasts were no longer so consistently at his command, thereby leading many listeners to the false conclusion that he was mainly concerned with quick tempos—will unquestionably need to rethink that notion in light of the present selection, which finds him at his powerful best in performances preserved between 1937 and 1948. Except for the October 1937 Beethoven “Pastoral” made in recording sessions in Read more Queen’s Hall with the BBC Symphony, all of these performances come from NBC Symphony broadcasts, the earliest being the Rienzi Overture (from December 1938), the latest (from just a week apart in November and December 1948, respectively) being the Brahms Symphony No. 4—which has never before issued in any format, and of which much more below—and Dvo?ák’s Symphonic Variations (the audio component of a television broadcast previously issued by RCA in video format). I’ve always liked the seldom-heard Dvo?ák piece, which I first got to know many years ago from a Toscanini “pirate” LP. Toscanini’s somewhat driven reading may not always offer the requisite geniality; nevertheless, it provides a striking showcase for his orchestra. Two of the broadcasts originated from Carnegie Hall (the February 1941 Immolation Scene with Helen Traubel, and the December 1945 Norma excerpt), the rest from NBC’s notorious Studio 8-H, though any concern about that should be stifled at once, since the sound of all these performances is very, very good, and strikingly so in the case of the newly issued Brahms Fourth. The broadly inflected Manon Lescaut Intermezzo from July 1944 is the same performance issued some years back in RCA’s Toscanini Edition, where—I’m told by Fanfare colleague/Toscanini authority Mortimer Frank, who provided the notes for the present release—it was misdated December 10, 1949 (the conductor’s other NBC broadcast of the piece). The Norma excerpt—a reading much broader and weightier than one might typically expect today, yet without ever sacrificing the requisite lyricism—has circulated on several labels and is currently available on Guild. (One error to note in the printed materials: the name of the chorus director for the Norma excerpt should be Peter Wilhousky, as given in the headnote, not Peter Wilhovsky.) The April 1941 broadcast (also available on Music & Arts) of Berlioz’s Francs-juges Overture—the only time Toscanini led that work in America—is a brilliant, thoroughly involving, powerfully convincing account of a quirky (even for Berlioz), loose-limbed, difficult-to-pull-off work.

The Immolation Scene and Rienzi Overture both showed up some 15 or so years ago in a three-disc Memories box devoted to Toscanini’s Wagner, but in rather dim transfers (especially for the Immolation Scene) that, while at least suggesting the power of the performances, could not let them be heard anywhere near properly, a problem the current release more than sets right. Toscanini’s Rienzi Overture is a weighty, dramatic, powerfully conceived, lyrical where necessary, broadly sculpted account that impressively avoids the level of bombast or even silliness that can so damagingly and typically undermine performances of this work. The Immolation Scene is truly extraordinary: majestic, awesomely detailed, with overwhelming cumulative power. Toscanini’s RCA recording with Traubel, made in Carnegie Hall just two days after the broadcast, certainly preserves the incandescence of the reading, but doesn’t match the thrilling impact of the live performance. The same concert also featured Traubel in “Dich, teure Halle” from Tannhäuser, and in the duets with Lauritz Melchior from Die Walküre and Götterdämmerung originally released by RCA decades ago on LP. The Immolation Scene concluded the program, with Traubel at that point clearly stretched to her limit, though this does not at all diminish the end result.

This leaves only the “Pastoral” Symphony and Brahms Fourth for comment. I’ve always preferred Toscanini’s BBC Symphony recordings of Beethoven’s First and Fourth symphonies (from 1937 and 1939, respectively) to this 1937 “Pastoral,” finding its first movement in particular generally unatmospheric and unyielding, not to mention some bothersomely untidy string-playing. But the previously unissued NBC Brahms Fourth of November 1948 is surely itself worth the already low price of this entire two-disc set. In his annotations, Mort Frank describes this as “perhaps [Toscanini’s] finest surviving account of the work.” Though I haven’t heard them all, I certainly hear nothing to discount his judgment. All of the adjectives (and adverbs) appropriate to a truly inspired performance on the part of both orchestra and conductor apply here at all the right moments: firmly controlled, lyrical, intense, flexible, rhetorical, poetic, expansive, broad-breathed, forward-moving, consistently engaging, expertly balanced, remarkably phrased, cumulatively powerful, with not a single note going for nothing, and extraordinary textural transparency. Further, the full-bodied recorded sound contributes markedly to the overall effect, the clarity of the bass line in particular providing a rock-solid foundation and springboard for the whole. This now takes its place alongside my preferred Toscanini broadcast of the Brahms Third, also with the NBC Symphony, that of February 8, 1941, issued a few years ago by Naxos."

Marc Mandel, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

Les francs-juges, Op. 3: Overture by Hector Berlioz
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1826; France 
Date of Recording: 04/05/1941 
Venue:  Live  NBC Studio 8H, New York City 
Length: 12 Minutes 2 Secs. 
Symphony no 4 in E minor, Op. 98 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1884-1885; Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/27/1948 
Venue:  Live  NBC Studio 8H, New York City 
Length: 38 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Symphonic Variations for Orchestra, Op. 78/B 70 by Antonín Dvorák
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877; Bohemia 
Date of Recording: 12/04/1948 
Venue:  Live  NBC Studio 8H, New York City 
Length: 19 Minutes 42 Secs. 
Manon Lescaut: Act 3 Intermezzo by Giacomo Puccini
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893; Italy 
Date of Recording: 07/02/1944 
Venue:  Live  NBC Studio 8H, New York City 
Length: 4 Minutes 43 Secs. 
Rienzi: Overture by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1840-1843; Germany 
Date of Recording: 12/03/1938 
Venue:  Live  NBC Studio 8H, New York City 
Length: 11 Minutes 32 Secs. 
Symphony no 6 in F major, Op. 68 "Pastoral" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1808 
Venue:  Queen's Hall, London, England 
Length: 37 Minutes 46 Secs. 
Notes: Queen's Hall, London, England (10/21/1937 - 10/22/1937) 
Götterdämmerung: Immolation by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Helen Traubel (Soprano)
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1874; Germany 
Date of Recording: 02/22/1941 
Venue:  Live  Carnegie Hall, New York City, NY 
Length: 19 Minutes 9 Secs. 
Language: German 
Norma: Ite sul colle, o Druidi by Vincenzo Bellini
Performer:  Nicola Moscona (Bass)
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  NBC Symphony Orchestra,  Westminster Cathedral Boys Choir,  Peter Wilhousky Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1831; Italy 
Date of Recording: 12/02/1945 
Venue:  Live  Carnegie Hall, New York City, NY 
Length: 9 Minutes 31 Secs. 
Language: Italian 

Featured Sound Samples

Manon Lescaut (Puccini): Act III: Intermezzo
Symphony no 6 "Pastoral" (Beethoven): V. Shepherds' song; cheerful and thankful feelings after the storm

Sound Samples

Grande Ouverture des Francs-Juges, H 23D
Symphony No. 4 in E minor Op. 98: I. Allegro non troppo
Symphony No. 4 in E minor Op. 98: II. Andante moderato
Symphony No. 4 in E minor Op. 98: III. Allegro giocoso - Poco meno presto - Tempo I
Symphony No. 4 in E minor Op. 98: IV. Allegro energico e passionato - Più Allegro
Symphonic Variations, Op.78
Manon Lescaut: Intermezzo from Act III
Rienzi, der letzte der Tribunen: Overture
Symphony No. 6 in F 'Pastoral' Op. 68 (2004 Digital Remaster): I. Allegro ma non troppo (Awakening of cheerful feelings on arriving in the country)
Symphony No. 6 in F 'Pastoral' Op. 68 (2004 Digital Remaster): II. Andante molto moto (Scene by the brook)
Symphony No. 6 in F 'Pastoral' Op. 68 (2004 Digital Remaster): III. Allegro (Merry gathering of the country folk) -
Symphony No. 6 in F 'Pastoral' Op. 68 (2004 Digital Remaster): IV. Allegro (Storm and tempest) -
Symphony No. 6 in F 'Pastoral' Op. 68 (2004 Digital Remaster): V. Allegretto (Shepherds' Song. Happy and thankful feelings after the storm)
Götterdämmerung: Brünnhildes Opfer und Erlösung (2004 Digital Remaster)
Norma: Introduction Chorus and Cavatina

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