> Toscanini: Schubert 8, Strauss Don Juan etc GHCD2202 [JW]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Symphony No 8 "Unfinished"
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Don Juan
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Symphony Concertante Op 84
J S BACH (1685-1750)
Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor – Orch Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936)
NBC Symphony Orchestra
Arturo Toscanini conductor
Recorded 14 October 1939
GUILD GHCD 2202 [79.26] Superbudget


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Guild is producing some mouth-watering historical issues – many of them operatic – and this is the first of their Toscanini Broadcast Legacy. The source material derives from Richard Blaine Gardner, one of Toscanini’s favourite RCA Victor engineers and editors, who received discs and tapes direct from the conductor and his son, Walter. It’s these discs, first generation copies with broadcast commentaries and introductions intact, to which Guild has had access. Restoration has been carried out by Richard Caniell at the Immortal Performance Recorded Music Society in British Columbia. No equalization or compression has been used which means that acetate ticks and scratches are present. I don’t think it would have hurt to remove or minimise them, despite the technical note to the effect that by so doing the instrumental overtones would have been compromised.[ see footnote] There are ways and means. In the event the imperfections are minor and not remotely off-putting, especially considering a recording date of October 1939.

The Schubert is a dramatic, coiled performance characterised by clarity of articulation and melodic line, each strand weighted and delineated with optimum projection. Very impressive in its way it confirms Toscanini’s credentials as a Schubertian of unsentimentalised excellence. Don Juan, however, for all Toscanini’s string moulding and passionate rhetoric, emerges strangely diminished. It seems to me too fragmentary and emphatic a reading, too dramatically leonine. There’s little of the quality someone such as Clemens Krauss would regularly mine from the core of the music. Others will doubtless find the blazing intensity very much to their liking but for me this is a performance that for all its qualities remorselessly fails to cohere.

The Haydn is yet more recorded evidence of Toscanini’s genuine affinity with and mastery of the medium. Though he programmed Haydn often he recorded relatively little and almost everything I have heard of it has been splendid. This performance, with a superb cast of principals, violinist Mischa Mischakoff (beautifully sweet of tone), cellist Frank Miller (in fine form), oboist Robert Bloom and bassoonist William Polesi, is a most congenial and affectionate affair, well balanced. As a reading I wouldn’t necessarily prefer it to the Fritz Busch recording of 1951 but it is a more than welcome addition to the discography. The Bach-Respighi is Stokowski-plus in impulse, a thrillingly naughty orchestration that owes its existence to Toscanini having heard Reiner conduct Respighi’s orchestration of the D minor Toccata and Fugue. The following year, 1930, he commissioned the orchestration recorded here.

Guild’s presentation is comprehensive and there are thoughtful notes by William Youngren.

Jonathan Woolf

See also review by Chris Fifield


Jonathan Woolf is misinformed.

I believe the ticks and clicks left on the final Master are indeed small...... and it says in the booklet we have Cedared (De Clicking and De Crackled using very low thresholds to avoid interfering with the actualmusic) but not Equalised or Compressed. As you know - Equalisation and Compression has absolutely nothing to do with Clicks and Scratches!!!!! We have removed thousands of clicks and scratches - the Cedar system (11,600 each unit) actually evaluates each side of the click or scratch and then removes it and finally interpolates the binary equation in the space (lasting a microsecond or 4!) - it will do 5,000 of these a second we are told! Likewise huge clicks have been excised by hand in the computer (Sonic Solutions and Wave lab). So much has been done on these very early masters - all taken from 16inch metallic discs revolving at an approximate 33 1/3 when they were originally cut. Electric current in those days being as amazingly today infinitely variable!!!

Jonathan Wearn -Guild,

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