Toscanini: The Essential Recordings

Release Date: 3/10/2017
Label: Sony
Catalog Number: 88985376042
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Number of Discs: 20

Physical Format:

CD
Low Stock
$63.99
Notes and Editorial Reviews
This twenty disc set, curated by Christopher Dyment and Harvey Sachs and drawn from RCA’s epic 80+ CD box of Toscanini’s complete authorized recordings, really does constitute an “essential” selection. Fans will quibble, as will I, but you can’t argue that the set contains a representative sample of the Maestro’s finest work, in the best sound to date. For example, I would not have given pride of place to the conductor’s Philadelphia recordings of Debussy’s La mer and Iberia, or Respighi’s Feste romane. The NBC performances stand among Toscanini’s most successful, and sound much better. On the other hand, the Schubert Ninth, lovingly restored, represents the Philadelphia recordings more than adequately.

Almost all of Toscanini’s major New York Philharmonic recordings are here, however, and rightly so. These include Haydn’s “Clock” and Mozart’s “Haffner” Symphonies, Beethoven’s Seventh, Brahms’ “Haydn” Variations, Wagner’s Lohengrin preludes plus Dawn and Siegfried’s Rhine Journey, and two Rossini overtures. These were the sounds and executional standards that revolutionized the musical world’s conception of what orchestral playing should be. As such, they remain historical documents of the first order, as well as astonishingly enjoyable performances, to this day.

Other selections, such as Kodály’s Háry Janos Suite, Barber’s Adagio, Sibelius’ Pohjola’s Daughter, and the second act of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice show off Toscanini’s broad range of interests in an unusually wide repertoire–again revealing what a modern conductor was expected to be able to do. Certain performances remain iconic examples of the Toscanini style, stunning in their discipline, clarity, and intense lyricism: I’m thinking of the Brahms Second, Mendelssohn’s music from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Strauss’ Death and Transfiguration, and Beethoven’s Forth and Fifth Symphonies. Haydn’s 98th Symphony is missing its concluding keyboard solo, but is otherwise pretty terrific, though Tchaikovsky’s “Pathétique” must yield to more spontaneous versions (such as Fricsay’s); but for the most part this is great stuff.

The most important selections, arguably, are the operas, whether whole or in part. Toscanini played cello at La Scala in the first run of Otello, and specialized in Falstaff. Both are here, the latter especially well recorded (sound clip). He premiered La Bohème, and while it’s impossible to say that the interpretation remained unchanged over the years, his authority is incontestable. Perhaps most remarkable, though, are the Wagner excerpts–preludes from Lohengrin (as already mentioned), Meistersinger, and the Siegfried Idyll, plus scenes from Götterdämmerung and Walküre, with Helen Traubel and Lauritz Melchior. Anyone who thinks Toscanini’s conducting got stiffer as he aged should hear his handling of the “redemption” motive at the end of Brünnhilde’s Immolation Scene (sound clip). Has it ever been done better?

Issued for the 150th anniversary of Toscanini’s death in 2017, this set represents a worthy tribute to a truly great musician. It’s amazing how well these performances have held up after all these years, a testament to their sterling musical qualities, and a fundamental example of excellence that remains ageless.

– ClassicsToday (David Hurwitz)
Works on This Recording
1. Symphony no 98 in B flat major, H 1 no 98 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical
Written: 1792 ; London, England
2. Symphony no 101 in D major, H 1 no 101 "Clock" by Franz Joseph Haydn
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: New York Philharmonic
Period: Classical
Written: 1793-1794 ; London, England
3. Symphony no 41 in C major, K 551 "Jupiter" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical
Written: 1788 ; Vienna, Austria
4. Symphony no 35 in D major, K 385 "Haffner" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: New York Philharmonic
Period: Classical
Written: 1782 ; Vienna, Austria
5. Symphony no 7 in A major, Op. 92 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: New York Philharmonic
Period: Classical
Written: 1811-1812 ; Vienna, Austria
6. Symphony no 4 in B flat major, Op. 60 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical
Written: 1806 ; Vienna, Austria
7. Symphony no 5 in C minor, Op. 67 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical
Written: 1807-1808 ; Vienna, Austria
8. Symphony no 9 in C major, D 944 "Great" by Franz Schubert
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: ?1825-28 ; Vienna, Austria
9. Symphony no 3 in E flat major, Op. 97 "Rhenish" by Robert Schumann
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1850 ; Germany
10. Midsummer Night's Dream Overture, in E major Op. 21 by Felix Mendelssohn
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1826 ; Germany
11. Midsummer Night's Dream, Op. 61 by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer: Edna Phillips (Soprano)
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1842 ; Germany
12. Der Freischütz, J 277: Overture by Carl Maria von Weber
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1817-1821 ; Dresden, Germany
13. Euryanthe, J 291/Op. 81: Overture by Carl Maria von Weber
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1822-1823 ; Dresden, Germany
14. Oberon, J 306: Overture by Carl Maria von Weber
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1825-1826 ; Dresden, Germany
15. Roméo et Juliette, Op. 17: Scherzo: La reine Mab by Hector Berlioz
Performer: Jon Garrison (Tenor), Nicola Moscona (Bass), Gladys Swarthout (Soprano)
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 09/1839 ; France
16. La damnation de Faust, Op. 24: Rákóczy March by Hector Berlioz
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1845-1846 ; France
17. Symphony no 2 in D major, Op. 73 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1877 ; Austria
18. Variations in B flat major on a theme by Haydn, Op. 56a "St. Anthony" by Johannes Brahms
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: New York Philharmonic
Period: Romantic
Written: 1873 ; Austria
19. Symphony no 6 in B minor, Op. 74 "Pathétique" by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1893 ; Russia
20. La mer by Claude Debussy
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: Philadelphia Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1903-1905 ; France
21. Images for Orchestra: no 2, Ibéria by Claude Debussy
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: Philadelphia Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1905-1908 ; France
22. Daphnis et Chloé Suite no 2 by Maurice Ravel
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1913 ; France
23. Don Juan, Op. 20 by Richard Strauss
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1888-1889 ; Germany
24. Salome, Op. 54: Dance of the seven veils by Richard Strauss
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1903-1905 ; Germany
25. Tod und Verklärung, Op. 24 by Richard Strauss
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1888-1889 ; Germany
26. Pohjola's daughter, Op. 49 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1906 ; Finland
27. Lemminkäinen Suite, Op. 22: no 3, Swan of Tuonela by Jean Sibelius
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1893-1897 ; Finland
28. Feste romane by Ottorino Respighi
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: Philadelphia Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1928 ; Rome, Italy
29. Háry János, Op. 15: Suite by Zoltán Kodály
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1927 ; Hungary
30. Adagio for Strings, Op. 11 by Samuel Barber
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1936 ; Rome, Italy
31. Orfeo ed Euridice: Act 2 by Christoph W. Gluck
Performer: Barbara Gibson (Soprano), Nan Merriman (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical
Written: 1762/1774 ; Vienna, Austria
32. L'italiana in Algeri: Overture by Gioachino Rossini
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: New York Philharmonic
Period: Romantic
Written: 1813 ; Italy
33. Rigoletto: Excerpt(s) by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer: Jan Peerce (Tenor), Nicola Moscona (Bass), Leonard Warren (Baritone), Zinka Milanov (Soprano), Nan Merriman (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1851 ; Italy
34. Semiramide: Overture by Gioachino Rossini
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1823 ; Italy
35. Otello by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer: Leslie Chabay (Tenor), Virginio Assandri (Tenor), Herva Nelli (Soprano), Giuseppe Valdengo (Baritone), Nicola Moscona (Bass), Arthur Newman (Bass), Ramon Vinay (Tenor), Nan Merriman (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1887 ; Italy
36. Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer: Norman Scott (Bass), Frank Guarrera (Baritone), Antonio Madasi (Tenor), John Carmen Rossi (Tenor), Gabor Carelli (Tenor), Herva Nelli (Soprano), Giuseppe Valdengo (Baritone), Teresa Stich-Randall (Voice), Cloe Elmo (Mezzo Soprano), Nan Merriman (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1893 ; Italy
37. Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: Act 1 Prelude by Richard Wagner
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1867 ; Germany
38. Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: Act 3 Prelude by Richard Wagner
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1867 ; Germany
39. Lohengrin: Act 1 Prelude by Richard Wagner
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1847 ; Germany
40. Lohengrin: Act 3 Prelude by Richard Wagner
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1847 ; Germany
41. Siegfried Idyll by Richard Wagner
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1870 ; Germany
42. Götterdämmerung: Excerpt(s) by Richard Wagner
Performer: Helen Traubel (Soprano)
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1874 ; Germany
43. Die Walküre: Act 1, Scene 3 by Richard Wagner
Performer: Lauritz Melchior (Tenor), Helen Traubel (Soprano)
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1856 ; Germany
44. La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini
Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble: NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1896 ; Italy
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