C0313. ARTURO TOSCANINI Cond. BBC S.O., w.Zinka Milanov, Kerstin Thorborg, Helge Roswaenge & Nicola Moscona: MANZONI REQUIEM (Verdi). (Austria) 2-Testament SBT2 1362, Live Performance, 27 May, 1938, Queens’ Hall, London. - 749677136222
"Previously available in execrable sound, Paul Baily for Testament has skillfully remastered the intractable BBC originals so that, though still confined and slightly distorted at climaxes, it is good enough to stand up to the 1940 Carnegie Hall version with the NBC Symphony, and in certain respects surpass it….Two of the soloists – Zinka Milanov and Nicola Moscona – appeared again in the New York performance, but both sound notably more relaxed here. With her famous pianissimo high notes and glowing tone, Milanov is well-nigh faultless…."
- Alan Blyth, GRAMOPHONE, March, 2005
“Milanov came like a bolt out of heaven - the voice and the young woman, both so vibrant and exciting. We knew something great had come into [the Met’s] Italian wing. What was not obvious at the beginning was that she would have such a staying power, for she gave so much in her singing.…I was present years later on her great anniversaries and she sang at mine [the fiftieth anniversary of [my] Met début, 1963]. She was incomparable. She was like a vocal sorceress singing the OTELLO arias that night. Such a roar went up from the public, I can never forget it.”
- Giovanni Martinelli
“Few orchestral conductors have attained the public recognition accorded Arturo Toscanini, due in part to his many recordings and frequent broadcast performances, but also to his dedication to the art of music-making. In a career spanning 68 years, he did more than anyone to revive the popular image of the all-powerful maestro
In 1885, at age 19, he graduated from the Parma Conservatory as a cellist, and joined an opera company for a tour of South America. When in Rio de Janeiro, the incompetence of the Brazilian conductor engaged for the tour so incensed the Italian singers and players that he was forced to resign, and the 20-year-old cellist was asked to take the baton for Verdi's AÏDA. By the end of the tour he had led 26 performances of 11 operas, all from memory.
Between 1887 and 1895, Toscanini conducted in many Italian opera houses, and in 1896 became the principal conductor of Turin's Regio Opera House, leading the first Italian performances of Wagner's GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG, TRISTAN AND ISOLDE and DIE WALKÜRE, and the première of Puccini's LA BOHÈME, as well as a series of highly successful orchestral concerts. He was the principal conductor at La Scala, Milan, from 1900 to 1908, and first appeared at New York's Metropolitan Opera in 1915, where he conducted the première of Puccini's LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST. In the same year he made his début in the U.S. as a symphonic conductor.
Recalled to La Scala in 1919, he reformed the orchestra and took it on a triumphant tour of the U.S., conducting 67 concerts in 77 days, followed by an Italian tour in which he led 38 concerts in 56 days. From 1926-1927, he was a guest conductor with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and in 1929 left La Scala to become its permanent conductor, a post he filled until 1939.
In 1937 Toscanini was invited by NBC to conduct broadcast concerts in America with a new symphony orchestra specifically created for the purpose. He then toured with that orchestra to South America in 1940 and throughout the United States in 1950. He also conducted a memorable series of concerts with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London between 1935 and 1939.
Toscanini's opposition to Fascism and Nazism was implacable. In 1931, he was attacked for refusing to play the ‘Giovanezza’, a Fascist anthem. In the same year he was the first non-German conductor to appear at the Wagner Festspielhaus in Bayreuth, but refused to return in 1933 in protest of the Nazi's treatment of Jewish musicians. He also turned his back on the Salzburg Festival because the Jewish conductor Bruno Walter's performances there were not broadcast in Germany. In 1938-1939, he conducted without fee at a festival in Lucerne, Switzerland, where the orchestra was composed entirely of musicians who had fled German persecution.
Toscanini's conducting style featured a precise, vigorous beat and vivid body-language, which orchestras understood and responded to with dramatic results. By the end of his career he had memorized 250 symphonic works, and over 100 operas. Though he enthusiastically embraced post-Romantic, twentieth century music, he virtually ignored the Second Viennese School and the new breed of American composers that were making their mark by the 1950s. It was not false modesty, but genuine humility that led him to say in an interview ‘I am no genius. I have created nothing. I play the music of other men. I am just a musician’."
- Roy Brewer, allmusic.com
“Kerstin Thorborg is a true contralto voice with a powerful top extension, making it eminently suitable for the special requirements of dramatic roles. Her top notes are prefectly placed and she sings with a rich and ample tone through the whole range. She is one of the great Wagnerin singers of the 20th century and all recordings in which she was involved are a ‘must’.
She gained great success, particularly as Brangäne. Bruno Walter became one of her most important mentors. Under Bruno Walter she sang the title role in Gluck’s ORFEO, and in 1936 with Walter she made gramophone history in the first ever recording of Mahler’s DAS LIED VON DER ERDE. She was most highly estimated by many great conductors, such as Georg Szell, Sir Thomas Beecham, Fritz Busch, Felix Weingartner, Hans Knappertsbusch, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Arturo Toscanini and Victor de Sabata. In 1938, when the Nazis annexed Austria, she broke her contract and left for the USA. There she had made her début already in 1936 at the Met. She stayed with this company until 1950, where she became one of the most successful mezzos, performing some three hundred nights during twelve seasons.”
- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile
“Nicolai Moscona, this Greek basso cantante, spent the most significant period of his prime in the United States as a member of the Metropolitan Opera. With a voice of good size and more than adequate quality…Moscona filled many prominent Italian and French roles once dominated by Ezio Pinza. His reliability and sound musicianship found favor with many of the leading conductors of the day, notably Arturo Toscanini, who engaged him for several important assignments later made available on disc. After studies with Elena Theodorini at the Conservatory in his native Athens, Moscona made his stage début in IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA at the National Opera in Athens in 1931. For the next six years, Moscona sang in a number of venues in Greece, Turkey, and Italy. His appearances in Italy were facilitated by a scholarship awarded by the Greek government for additional opera coaching in Milan. After only two months in that country, he was heard in audition by Metropolitan Opera general director Edward Johnson. Impressed, Johnson offered Moscona a contract and the bass accepted. Moscona's New York début took place on 13 December, 1937, as Ramfis in AÏDA. THE NEW YORK TIMES critic reported, ‘He has a basso cantate voice of ample size and agreeable quality’, further expressing the belief that the singer would prove useful in the Italian and French wings. Following his first season in New York, Moscona returned to Italy to sing at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and to fulfill engagements at La Scala and Bologna. Another signal event in 1938 brought the bass into contact with Toscanini, who chose him for a London performance of Verdi's MANZONI REQUIEM. With a not yet fully schooled Zinka Milanov, a strong Kerstin Thorborg, and a clarion-voiced Helge Rosvaenge, Moscona sang his part in such a manner as to please the maestro and lead to further collaborations in America. Aside from his performances at the Metropolitan Opera, Moscona continued to perform leading roles at La Scala and at Rome's Teatro Reale. After acquiring United States citizenship in 1945, Moscona sang as soloist with many of the world's leading orchestras (26 performances with Toscanini alone). Appearances with other companies, such as Chicago, filled his calendar. Moscona sang a total of 485 performances at the Metropolitan Opera. Among his most frequently performed roles there were Ramfis, Raimondo, Sparafucile, and Ferrando (memorably preserved in an all-star RCA recording). Upon retirement, Moscona joined the faculty at Philadelphia's Academy of Vocal Arts.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com