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Arturo Toscanini – Great Conductors
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)

Symphony No. 88 in G major
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Symphony No. 40 in G minor K550
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

String Quartet in F major Op.135 – Lento assai and Vivace (arranged for string orchestra)
Nicolo PAGANINI (1782-1840)

Moto Perpetuo (arranged TOSCANINI)
Giacomo ROSSINI (1792-1868)

William Tell Overture
NBC Symphony Orchestra/Arturo Toscanini
Recorded 1938-39
NAXOS 8.110895 [71.56]

Naxos has collated Toscanini’s first NBC recordings, made in Studio 8-H between March 1938 and April 1939. The results may surprise those unfamiliar with his art, not only inasmuch as the repertoire is familiar from his earlier NYPSO recordings (of which these NBC ones were in pretty direct emulation) but also because of the air of geniality and easy-going lyricism that runs throughout. Toscanini was an under-rated Haydn conductor and his G major Symphony is an example of his relaxed and affectionate insight into the repertoire. The first movement is smilingly fluent and the accents, maybe surprisingly, are not at all trenchant. Similarly the fortissimo outbursts in the second movement are strongly calibrated and the Minuet plays up the rusticity well. The basses make their presence felt (aided by 8-H’s notorious clarity) and though it’s not the wittiest traversal on record - wit was not much his forte - Toscanini does give due weight to the pedal (an open fifth) underscoring the oboe’s line.

All this and more applies to the G minor of Mozart. It’s as if his antipode, Furtwängler, had changed the conductor’s name on the record labels. The opening is leisurely, though the dynamics are strong (though never trenchant) with finely graded crescendi and diminuendi. The Andante is rather elegant with a rather pomposo bass line and altogether more rococo than one might have expected from Toscanini. One of the faults in the recording is a bit of spread in the horns in the Minuet, taken with a heavy clip. The Beethoven shows off his new orchestra’s string section but there are moments when 8-H sabotages the Rossini – especially the percussion.

The transfers have dealt well with the problematic acoustic; no semblance of added warmth has been added and the copies used were Victor "Gold" pressings. Mark Obert-Thorn has retained a certain degree of surface noise but it’s perfectly acceptable.

Jonathan Woolf

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