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Arturo Toscanini – In Memoriam
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Symphony No.8 in F major Op.93 (1814) [23:49]
Richard WAGNER (1813-83)
Tannhäuser – Overture and Bacchanale (1845) [24:27]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
La forza del destino – overture (1862) [7:22]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Manfred Op 115 – overture (1852) [11:57]
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Guillaume Tell – passo a sei [5:41]
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Symphony No. 9 Op. 95 From the New World (1893) [36:14]
NBC Symphony Orchestra/Arturo
rec. New York, 8 November 1952 (Beethoven, Wagner, Verdi)
and 31 January 1953 (Schumann, Rossini, Dvořák)
TAHRA TAH624-25 [56:17
has issued two In Memoriam editions recently, both
slim-line two disc sets. One is devoted to Abendroth (see
review) and the other to Toscanini. The latter is divided
into two pairs;
concerts given with the NBC in November 1952 and January
1953. Tahra’s programming ensures that we hear a symphony
and two orchestral works from each concert. All the performances
have of course appeared over the years but their conjoining
here is no less welcome.
The earlier concert has
its focus the Eighth Symphony of Beethoven. This has survived
in many performances over the years – of live ones two from
1939, one from 1943, one from 1944, and a final one from
1952. Commercially he left two inscriptions – 1939 and 1952. Toscanini’s
Eighth is always fascinating and especially in this 1952
reading. It’s big-boned, dramatic and cannot be ignored.
Never was it less than a “Little” Eighth than here with the
NBC’s powerful bass section propelling things in the outer
movements or adopting a pomposo gait for the Allegretto – a
real study in manners. The finale is buoyant and propulsive
though not ideally tidy, if that matters to you.
The Tannhäuser Overture
and Bacchanale was released commercially. Other performances
date from ’43, ’48, ’52 and ’54. Maybe the most convincing
are the 1948 telecast and the wartime performance - not that
this one isn’t august and persuasive but there are touches
of retardation and heaviness that forbids a full recommendation.
The phrasing suffers from this unusual example of Toscanini’s
seeming seepage of control. The Verdi overture is resolute
and excellently executed.
The second disc brings
us the1953 Dvořák From the New World. He recorded
it for RCA same year, though broadcast performances also
exist form ’38, ’41 and ’50. Rather like his Schumann Toscanini
went on something of a starvation diet with Dvořák.
The Ninth was in fact his only commercial recording of a
work by the Czech composer though of course off-air material
includes the Cello Concerto, Scherzo Capriccioso and the
Symphonic Variations – the last on video as well. One would
have thought of all such works the Seventh Symphony would
have been sympathetic to him. The broadcast Ninth in this
set has some trenchant and blistering brass perorations,
though Toscanini does relax for the lyric episodes. The performance
is profoundly dramatic and intense, as one might predict,
though I for one find it all rather hectoring, at least in
the outer movements. The string separation in the slow movement
is finely accomplished though rather let down by the pummelling
central section. It’s a performance of dramatic contrasts
and sinewy eruption.
He performed the Schumann
Third Symphony often enough, the Second less often. His Manfred
overture is of a piece with the Dvořák – driving, hard-bitten
(if one’s unsympathetic) and no dallying or sectionalising.
Brass turbulence and rhythmic precision ensure that all architectural
priorities are achieved, though sometimes at the expense
of warmth. Finally there’s the Rossini - a sweetly phrased
morceau to which Toscanini was susceptible and left behind
numerous examples in the 1940s and 50s.
The notes entitled “Maestro
of the Century” against his own will are by Angelo
Scottini. And the restorations are first class. The set
offers two major symphonic statements and plenty of important
ancillary orchestral material – certainly enough to tempt
the Toscanini collector who may not have them.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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