C1336. ARTURO TOSCANINI Cond. NYPO: Complete Concert of 2 Feb., 1936, incl.Bach, Beethoven & Brahms (the latter's Concerto #2 in B-flat (w.ROBERT CASADESUS); Triple Concerto (Beethoven), w.Ania Dorfmann, Mishel Piastro & Josef Schuster, Live Performance, 1 May 1942; ARTURO TOSCANINI Cond. NYPO: Complete Concert of 19 April, 1936 - All-Debussy Program, w.BIDÚ SAYÃO & ROSE BAMPTON. (Canada) 4-Immortal Performances IPCD 1049, also offers broadcast commentary. Transfers by Richard Caniell. Program Notes by Robert Matthew-Walker. Specially priced at Four discs for the price of Three. - 748252292346
“. . . as a program, this [all-Debussy concert] was the outstanding novelty of the orchestral year, among the most distinctive of Toscanini’s American achievements….in finish, balance of parts and beauty of tone, Toscanini’s orchestral performance could scarcely have been surpassed.”
- Oscar Thompson, MUSICAL AMERICA
"For Toscanini, Brahms was not an historical figure, but a vibrant contemporary; the same is true of Debussy, who was Toscanini’s senior by just four years, and whose orchestral music was beginning to be recognised when the conductor emerged as a major figure on the podium. Toscanini’s command of Brahms’ orchestral music was as profound as for Beethoven and Schubert, and his understanding of Debussy was such as to make Toscanini’s Brahms and Debussy as powerful and remarkable a combination as Toscanini’s Wagner….it is now 60 years since Toscanini retired and our understanding of his unique interpretative genius is predicated upon those surviving recordings which contain the essence, in detail as well as in broader aspects, of his art.
In February 1936, the soloist was the greatly distinguished French pianist Robert Casadesus….As the announcer states, Toscanini had engaged Casadesus after hearing him in concert during the previous season….Toscanini resigned the musical directorship of the NYPO in 1936, but returned to the city at the end of the following year to head the newly-formed NBC Symphony Orchestra, which had been created specifically for him, initially for broadcast programmes. In 1941 he resigned that post, but returned a year later, during which he again directed the Philharmonic, and it was on 1 May, 1942 that this very rare performance of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto was captured. The string soloists were Philharmonic principals (Josef Schuster had replaced Wallenstein at the end of the 1936 Season), with Ania Dorfman the pianist….for the Debussy concert he gave for the NYPO in April 1936, he chose works which had appeared and made their mark in varying degrees [in] the conductor’s career….the early cantata ‘La Damoiselle Élue’ dating from 1888 was a rarity….This All-Debussy concert has to be one of the more remarkable in the Maestro’s entire career – simply from the point of view of repertoire. Toscanini was not a newcomer to programmes devoted to a single composer, but in choosing Debussy…he revealed his personal empathy with a great composer whom he had met, and in whose music he deeply believed….and although this concert was recorded off-air virtually 80 years ago, in circumstances that we may regard as primitive, the undoubted quality of the conductor’s understanding and grasp of this music shines through…there can surely be no argument from the attentive and unprejudiced listener that the programmes within this CD collection, of music from Bach to Debussy, with the sound restored today to the best that can be obtained by painstaking technical and musical skill and dedication, remain profound demonstrations of Arturo Toscanini’s irrefutably unique interpretative genius.”
- Robert Matthew-Walker, Program Notes
“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