Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphonies: No. 2; No. 4.
Arturo Toscanini, cond, NBC SO
OPUS KURA 7039, mono (68:16)
Everything here involves familiar performances released in a variety of RCA transfers, most recently a five-disc box devoted exclusively to the Beethoven symphonies. But the
Overture, as far as I know, is currently unavailable, having appeared on CD only in RCA’s 1992
“Toscanini Collection.” Opus Kura credits the performance to 1952, but 1953 is the correct date. Its transfer is identical to the one RCA released on CD save for one significant detail just before the coda, where— in this new release drawn from an HMV LP—a huge
present in the RCA CD is absent. The original recording was made two days after a January 17 broadcast account, itself broader than this studio effort, but without the tempo adjustment near the close of the RCA edition. This one discrepancy between that one and Opus Kura’s suggests that more than one take for the studio recording exists. Thus, for those with special interests in Toscanini this release may have value, resurrecting a transfer that has been unavailable since the demise of the LP.
No such discrepancies exist between RCA’s and Opus Kura’s efforts in these fine accounts of the two symphonies, also taken from HMV LPs. Neither contains the first-movement exposition repeats that Toscanini observed in his 1939 NBC Beethoven cycle. If this reading of the Second Symphony is without that live account’s subtle rhythmic inflections, it is, nonetheless, consistent in its clarity, animation, and coherence, despite being recorded in Carnegie Hall sessions spread between 1949 and 1951. The Fourth Symphony derives from a 1951 NBC broadcast. Time was when I favored the once long-held consensus that this performance was inferior to the allegedly “more relaxed” account that Toscanini recorded in 1939 with BBC Symphony. But this one, in addition to being sonically superior, is better played, with stronger rhythmic and motivic profiling. As for the overall quality of the three transfers, there is nothing to fault. To be sure, the sound of RCA’s CDs is not duplicated, but the differences are minimal and occasionally seem to offer better focus here than in some “official” efforts. But there is one (minor) caveat: those with sub-woofers that extend below 50 Hz. should turn them off in listening so as to eliminate some rumble in the source and in the occasional passing of trains beneath Carnegie Hall. In all other respects, these transfers can be recommended.
FANFARE: Mortimer H. Frank
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 2 in D major, Op. 36 by Ludwig van Beethoven
NBC Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1801-1802; Vienna, Austria
Egmont, Op. 84: Overture by Ludwig van Beethoven
NBC Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1810; Vienna, Austria
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