Customer Reviews for: Arturo Toscanini - The Complete RCA Collection [84 CDs + DVD]

9 Reviews in Total
5 Star: 10 Reviews
4 Star: 1 Review
3 Star: 1 Review
2 Star: 0 Reviews
1 Star: 0 Reviews

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5.0 Stars (9 Reviews)

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 Yup, the Whole Magillah September 23, 2013
By E. Barnes (Dunn Loring, VA) -- See All My Reviews
Just finished listened to my final CDs from this set, the 1947 recording of Verdi's Otello, a fitting end to a year-and-a-half long effort. (I took that long so I wouldn't just be listening somehow automatically.) There were so many high points that I can easily forgive the few odd low points (for me, for instance, and amazingly enough, Toscanini never really got Mozart -- those performances never took off, but usually landed with a thud). Some great surprises along the way, especially the Brahms symphonies, lucid and precious. It was another listening of a long time favorite that got me to understanding Toscanini's genius: In Schubert's C Major Symphony, he never allows the beat to become so four-square that it could be considered a march. Specifically, he seemed to have a knack for slicing off a micro-second or two at the end of a measure or phrase whose ending would have been too obvious if left to play out. This economy can be heard throughout the entire set, here and there, to telling effect each time. How did he do that? Musicians in the NBC SO say it was all in the baton. Follow the baton to heaven. Well, tick one experience off from the bucket list. Nice. Report Abuse

 Best money ever spent September 15, 2012
By Michael Z. (New York, NY) -- See All My Reviews
If you're a fan of Toscanini, don't miss this set. It's an exceptional deal. Some of the sound quality is not as good as we'd like it to be but, considering the latest recordings were made in the fifties (and most others much earlier), it's understandable. Playing and interpretations are all first-rate. Best $120. I ever spent. Report Abuse

 Toscanini, a recorded review of his life work . September 13, 2012
By Howard Armstrong (Wantagh, NY) -- See All My Reviews
This collection keeps the memory and accomplishments of Toscanini alive. Excellent restoration effort. Performances without the coloration that other conductors insert in the music. Report Abuse

 Bargain set of great music September 4, 2012
By Kevin Parker (Greenbelt, MD) -- See All My Reviews
I'm still working my way through this collection, but I've enjoyed it greatly so far. (I bought the box for my parents as well, and they report the same.) I grew up on Toscanini's Beethoven and am glad to have that and more. And of course Toscanini is an iconic conductor, particularly in this country. The only downside is that the sound quality sometimes makes it clear that these are very old recordings, made with less sophisticated technology than is now available. I note that, but then I get swept away by the music all over again. Report Abuse

 Amazing music for amazing price August 16, 2012
By Robert T. (Norcross, GA) -- See All My Reviews
This new release of the Arturo Toscanini Complete RCA Collection conains 84 CDs of some fantastic performances of orchestral and operatic music. Priced around $120.00, it's an outstanding value. Many of the CDs have been remastered since the original release in the early 1990's. The sound is all mono, of course, but most of these releases have never sounded better. Toscanini was a master of interpretation, and brings the music to life. I especially like his recording of the Brahms Symphony No. 3, and also really enjoyed the 1952 performance of act 2 of Gluck's Orfeo. If you don't know why Toscanini was considered one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century, here is a superb opportunity for you to find out. Each CD is contained in a cardboard sleeve, with the title on the spine. Some notes are included in the enclosed book. This set is highly recommended to all classical collectors. Report Abuse

 Just Wonderful August 14, 2012
By D. Kaufman (Washington, DC) -- See All My Reviews
If ypu thought you knew the Toscanini recording, you have never heard them like this. Verdi, Debussy, take your pick---the digital remastering takes away from that old soup can acoustics. Pricey (kind of but look what you are getting), but highly recommended.

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 Fine Tiscanini compilation August 8, 2012
By Harold C. (Arlington, VA) -- See All My Reviews
This massive 85-disc collection of Arturo Toscanini's best recorded performances is not only well-produced but a smashing bargain to boot.
To keep this brief, the recordings are well-transferred with a notable absence of heavy-handed processing and provide very pleasant listening.
All are in mono, of course, and fortunately not subjected to"processed stereo" recreations.
Even the dry Studio 8-H recordings reveal details in the performances not noted in the lusher stereo recordings post-dating Toscanini's death.
The 85th disc, a DVD about Toscanini, is a welcome bonus.
I consider this to be an essential addition to any classical library.
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  Mostly Complete Toscanini - at a great price July 27, 2012
By T. Drake (South Euclid, OH) -- See All My Reviews
Over fifty years after his death, it must be difficult for audiences to grasp the importance of Arturo Toscanini's contribution to music. George Szell summed it up best, in reaction to hearing Toscanini in 1930: "This was orchestral performance of a kind new to all of us. The clarity of texture; the precision of ensemble; the rightness of balances; the virtuosity of every section, every solo player in the orchestra - then at its peak - in the service of an interpretative concept of evident, self-effacing integrity, enforced with irresistible willpower and unflagging ardor, set new, undreamed-of standards literally overnight." Today, we take for granted what Szell marveled over, and that's mainly thanks to Toscanini and his successors - including Szell. Thus, it's no exaggeration to say that Toscanini initiated the modern era of conducting. However, Toscanini's recorded legacy is problematic. First, Toscanini didn't start recording until 1920, when he was 53 and halfway through his career. Second, recording technology was primitive and seldom captured the orchestral sonority with any accuracy. Many of Toscanini's recordings were sonically substandard even for the time. RCA's use of NBC's Studio 8-H - where Saturday Night Live is now performed - didn't help matters. (Stereo recordings of Toscanini's final two concerts - not included in this set - give an idea of the glowing sonority Toscanini pursued, but the playing is tragically off form.) Unlike Stokowski, Toscanini didn't know much about recording technology, but he knew what he liked. A comment he made to a recording producer is characteristic: "It's perfect, just like reading the score." Much has been written about Toscanini's performances: the lean, presciently-HIP Mozart, propulsive Beethoven, transparent and virile Brahms, non-sentimental Tchaikovsky, bon-bons given as much care as established masterpieces, and opera which placed pacing and structure above singers' vanity - this is what the critics of Toscanini's time raved about. For Toscanini, the performance of great - and not so great - music was as much a moral as a musical matter. The music simply HAD to go a certain way. But there was a less positive side to Toscanini's fanaticism: Some of his recordings, particularly of concertos, are lacking in communicativeness and spontaneity - it was Toscanini's way or the highway. His concerto recordings with Heifetz, Horowitz, and Rubinstein in particular often find soloist and conductor poles apart: Rubinstein and Toscanini are simply not together in the coda of the opening movement of Beethoven's Third Concerto; and hard as it is to imagine Horowitz being intimidated by anyone, that's exactly the case in their studio recording of Brahms' Second Concerto. Serkin, on the other hand, saw music in much the same way as Toscanini, and they fit each other hand in glove during Beethoven's Fourth Concerto. The recordings in this collection argue both sides of the Toscanini coin. Toscanini's approach changed over the years, as he came to value structural cohesiveness over episodic expression. This can be clearly heard in two recordings of Mozart's Haffner Symphony: in the first, with the New York Philharmonic in 1929, the forte outbursts and pianissimo replies are played at different tempos, like an opera aria between an imposing suitor and demure lady; in 1946 at NBC, the passages are played straight. But certain things were always there: the clarity and balance Szell marveled over, the sure sense of rhythm even when using rubato, and the phrasing which takes the music coherently from beginning to end. This set, which compiles all of Toscanini's authorized RCA recordings, uses the best existing transfers available from the Sony (formerly RCA) vaults - meaning the 1999-2000 Immortal series for about 24 discs worth of material, 2006 transfers of the Philadelphia Orchestra recordings, and some JVC issues from Japan. But the bulk of the material comes from RCA's early 1990s Gold Seal reissues which sound rather cramped and compressed. Paradoxically, the New York Philharmonic recordings, which many consider some of Toscanini's best, sound better than many of the NBC recordings despite being older. Documentation is scant: a miniature book but no notes for individual discs - and no librettos for the operas. Surely Sony could have scanned the existing notes and libretti into a CD-ROM? The cover art approximates the look of the 1990s Gold Seal series, although Robert Hupka's famous photographs have been replaced. There is an issue when multiple discs are included in a single "gatefold" album: Unlike what one would encounter in a 2 LP set, where one pulls the discs from the outside openings, here the openings are along the center line of the gatefold - making the discs difficult to remove without damaging the jacket. A DVD containing the 1980s documentary "Toscanini - the Maestro" is also included. But I'd also recommend acquiring the Testament DVDs of the ten concerts Toscanini conducted on television - a revelatory view of how Toscanini conducted the orchestra, not the audience. You get what you pay for. I can't recommend this for those who bought the complete collection in the 1990s - chances are die-hard Toscanini fans have already supplemented their collections with the Immortal series. But for those wanting an overview of the second half of Toscanini's career, this set is an excellent choice. Report Abuse

 MOSTLY GOOD NEWS, SOME BAD NEWS (in the UK) July 3, 2012
By John Wyman (urbana, IL) -- See All My Reviews
When I was a "youth" in Chicago in the sixties, EMI used to infuriate American teens by releasing the US version of each new Beatles album several weeks after it debuted in England (creating a black-market for imported LPs).

The record companies are still at it: This time Sony released the Toscanini Collection in the UK in April, but made us Yanks wait until July.

This turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
The first UK pressings had a major screw-up that should have been avoided.

My original title for this review was "Faith, Hope and Love".

The "Love" part was easy: Great performances of great music at a great price.
"Faith and Hope" were more complicated: I hoped Sony would get it right, but my faith in the company was a bit more tenuous.
Well, they got most of it right, at least for the North American release.

In 1992 RCA/BMG released the first 82 CD Toscanini Collection.
That is the template upon which the new Toscanini Collection was assembled.

In 1999 RCA/BMG issued twelve 2 CD sets of Toscanini in new, 20-bit transfers. Most people thought these were an improvement over the 16-bit transfers of 1992. *

In 2006 Toscanini's Philadelphia Orchestra recordings were issued in new 20-bit transfers.

Finally in 2008 Sony Japan issued 15 CDs worth of transfers on Japanese JVC XRCDs [most of this material overlapped with the 1999 20-bit transfers]. JVC XRCDs are highly valued by collectors - I could never afford them.

If you're adding this up, approximately one third of the 1992 set was re-done in new and improved transfers.
[Of course, in an ideal world, someone would have re-mastered the remaining 2/3 using the latest technology, but this is not an ideal world].

GOOD NEWS: Sony took the 1992 Collection as a template, and inserted the new and improved masterings onto the appropriate CDs. Can't complain about that.

GOOD NEWS: The price is unbelievably low.
In 1992, the 82 CD box sold for $1200. Today the 84 CD + 1 DVD box sells for $125. This is simply amazing.
Every civilized person should own this set.
A Monument to Western Civilization.

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BAD NEWS: ATTENTION UK READERS. This is the most serious blunder.

In the first batch of pressings released in the UK and Europe, the 1949 studio recording of Beethoven's Symphony 3 "Eroica" was MISSING.
The 1949 Eroica was supposed to be on CD1.
Instead, the 1953 broadcast appeared twice: on CD1 (mislabeled as 1949) and on CD29 (where it belongs).

If you need a quick test of whether you have the 1949 or 1953 Eroica, there is a 20 second difference in the timings of the first movement:

1949 = 13:46
1953 = 14:06

Also, the engineer retained audience noise between movements of the 1953 performance.
This is most audible between movements 3 and 4.

The missing 1949 Eroica on CD1 was corrected in later pressings, including the North American release.
If you live in the UK, and have the bad CD1, contact your dealer to see about getting a replacement CD1.
Unfortunately, you may have to return the entire 84 CD box, and get a new 84 CD box. Wasteful stupidity.
To date, Sony has been ignoring customer's inquiries.

[Past experience: My 60 CD Bernstein Symphony Edition came with one missing CD and two duplicate CDs.
I tried to contact Sony to arrange an exchange of CDs, but they did not acknowledge my existence.
Ended up returning the whole 60 CD box in exchange for a new 60 CD box. Stupid.]

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GOOD NEWS: It comes with a nice book of essays about Toscanini and lots of nice photographs.
In 1992, RCA published a booklet with discographical index to the contents of all 82 CDs, but it was a limited edition.
Today the discographical index is included in the book.
This is important, as the published order of recordings was not and is not alphabetical or chronological.

BAD NEWS: The 1992 program notes, mostly by Mortimer H. Frank, are no longer included. They were a model of their kind.

GOOD NEWS: You can get them in book form: "Arturo Toscanini: The NBC Years" by Mortimer H. Frank (Amadeus Press, 2002).
It even includes a critical discography cued to the volumes in the old Collection, which are the same volumes as the new Collection.

BAD NEWS: No librettos for the operas and vocal works. This was predictable. Still sad.

BADDISH NEWS: Sony decided to slavishly copy the published sequence of the 1992 edition.

This is taking "original jacket" mania to a ridiculous extreme.
Its not even the "original jacket".
Toscanini died in 1957, but the totally arbitrary published order of the 1992 Complete Edition must be respected.

Why?

Why not issue the CDs in alphabetical order by composer?
Or chronologically by date of composition (Bach through Shostakovich)?
Or by date of recording (1920 to 1954)?

BAD NEWS: The DVD "Toscanini: The Maestro" features a censored version of Toscanini's wartime film of Verdi's "Hymn of the Nations."

Toscanini's wartime film of Verdi's composition expanded Verdi's original, which combined the national anthems of France, Great Britain and Italy, to include the anthems of the Soviet Union (the Internationale) and the United States (the Star-Spangled Banner).
The unabridged audio of the performance is on CD 63, but the DVD of the film eliminates the Soviet anthem entirely.
Actually, this is not Sony's fault - RCA did the censoring back in the 80's when the work was prepared for VHS release.

GOOD NEWS: The complete, uncensored "Hymn of the Nations" is available on DVD.
It was a production of the U.S. Government Department of War Information, so its in the public domain.
If you want to see as well as hear Toscanini conducting the Soviet National Anthem, do a google search for "Berkshire Record Outlet".

Click on "Search Catalog". Under "Keywords" enter "Toscanini", then check the box next to "DVD", then click "Search".

If you're lucky, you will find a 2 DVD-R set on the PDVD label (#PDVD2) titled "Great Conductors" selling for $14.95.
On DVD2, at 13:26 of track 8, you will both see and hear Arturo Toscanini conducting the Soviet National Anthem (Internationale).

I was never a fan of the Soviet Union, but they had a nice anthem. **

DISAPPOINTING NEWS: In their original press release, Sony promised that they would include 2 CDs of previously unreleased Toscanini performances with the BBC Symphony.
That is not the case: These are the same BBC recordings that Biddulph and Naxos have already issued (still nice to have).

IN SUMMATION: Despite some real problems (especially in the UK), you really should get this set. Especially at the insanely low price.

* It is the majority critical opinion that the new transfers are an improvement over 1992.
I am not going to express an opinion.
I just remembered that I am 63 years old (I try to forget).
I think my hearing is just fine, but that is probably not the case.
After age 50, people gradually loose their ability to hear high frequencies.

Everything in the new box sounds fine to me.
I wonder if I would have felt the same way 20 years ago?
I probably should defer to others when it comes to making comparative judgements about sound
Even so, it sounds good to me - always remembering that the originals are 58-92 years old.

** The 2 DVD set also contains videos of other famous conductors. Including the only known existing footage of Leo Borchard.
If you don't know the name, he was Music Director of the Berlin Philharmonic for six weeks in 1945 (until he was accidently shot by an American soldier). He succeeded Furtwangler and was succeeded by Celibidache, who was succeeded by Furtwangler (again).

OK, the American soldier didn't "accidently" shoot Leo Borchard.
Borchard was a passenger in a car that ran a roadblock in occupied Berlin.

Moral: Always stop for roadblocks.
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