C1459. ARTURO TOSCANINI Cond. NBC S.O.: Symphony #40 in g, K.550 (Mozart); Symphony #1 in c (Brahms); w.Mischa Mischakoff, Edwin Bachmann & Osvaldo Mazzuchi: Concerto in D minor, RV 565 (Vivaldi). (Canada) 2-Immortal Performances IPCD 1072, Live Performance, 25 December, 1937, the first Toscanini NBC Symphony Orchestra broadcast. Includes Interviews, broadcast speeches, and rehearsal of Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture. Restoration by Richard Caniell. Also a separate 44pp. booklet - Toscanini: A Lifetime of Influences by Caniell. - 019962447617
“A new Immortal Performances release, issued as part of their commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Toscanini’s birth, documents that historic concert in its entirety, and provides fascinating supplementary material as well.
The ability to hear Toscanini’s first NBC Symphony Orchestra concert and broadcast, in quite good sound for its source and vintage, makes this set self-recommending to devotees of this conductor. But there is so much more to enjoy. Perhaps first and foremost is the amazing rapport demonstrated between Toscanini and the NBC Symphony on this, their maiden voyage. Toscanini demands much of the musicians on this occasion (as he always did), but they are with him every step of the way, delivering a concert of remarkable precision, musicality, and emotional power.
The broadcast took place in NBC’s Studio 8H, whose dry, clinical acoustics may have pleased Toscanini, but also produced sonically problematic recordings. These challenges were even more pronounced for the 1937 concert, prior to a time when NBC made some acoustic improvements to the theater. But producer Richard Caniell has worked his technical magic, applying a subtle layer of resonance to give the soundstage a warm acoustic, without any loss of detail. Caniell states in his ‘recording notes’ that he has always been troubled by the lack of applause following the performance of the Vivaldi, mandated by RCA to fit the concert into a proscribed time frame. This release affords the listener the option to listen to the concert as originally broadcast, with applause and commentary by announcer Howard Claney following the Vivaldi. The latter version was assembled by Richard Caniell from other portions of the original broadcast.
Additional materials include Samuel Chotzinoff describing his 1937 meeting with Toscanini, NBC Symphony cellist Alan Shulman’s recollections of the Maestro, and David Sarnoff’s address to the concert broadcast audience regarding Toscanini’s return for the 1938-39 season. The jewel of the supplementary material is a 23 November, 1946 rehearsal by Toscanini and the NBC SO of Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture. Both the playing and Toscanini’s exhortations are at a fever pitch from start to finish. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard or witnessed a more thrilling rehearsal sequence. The CD booklet includes Caniell’s essay, as well as one by Robert Matthew-Walker. A separate booklet, ‘Toscanini: A Lifetime of Influences’ is Richard Caniell’s extended, heartfelt, and moving tribute to the conductor’s influence on his own musical life, as well as the writer’s tireless efforts to preserve the Maestro’s legacy. This is a magnificent release in every way, and one that quickly joins my 2016 ‘Want List’. Highest recommendation.”
- Ken Meltzer, FANFARE, Nov./Dec., 2016
“What do we hear [in the Vivaldi Concerto]? In remarkably clear sound, a virtuoso orchestra. Technically, the playing is remarkable, the attack and response crisp and clear. The players seem to give Toscanini what he asks of them. It is played with great clarity by the strings and the trio of soloists… we need to remember that in 1937 it was remarkable to find such a work on a symphonic program.
The Mozart, by contrast, is a symphony central to the conductor’s repertory….This concert performance is a terrific reading: superbly played, sensitive. The finale is particularly effective. Caniell’s sonic remastering enables us to [hear] the work’s deep emotions, and enjoy a thrilling interpretation. The announcer comments that Toscanini left the stage actually showing pleasure in the audience response. Well he might have.
A point about this first CD in the set: Caniell has included, first, the two opening works in his full sonic restoration. Then, he presents the raw NBC broadcast with only the corrections necessary to ensure that pitches are accurate. Caniell had the space on the disc to give us this alternate hearing, and it is absorbing. This takes us back to the discussion of broadcasts and microphoning by Robert Hupka. The NBC transmission was by no means awful. Immortal Performances has cleaned up the sound and we have more presence, a more realistic timbre of the orchestra in its total resonance.
As enjoyable as are the Vivaldi and Mozart from the first portion of the concert, the ‘old man’ came out for the Brahms in the mood to produce an inflammatory performance. My introduction to Toscanini as a child was the 1941 studio recording of the Brahms c minor Symphony on 78s. This 1937 performance is unique. It is broader in both the opening movement and the second. But, there is no undue sentimentality in the second movement: Mischakoff’s violin solo is so restrained you would never believe he was of the Auer school (and what a great violinist and concertmaster he was!).
This performance greatly expands our knowledge of Toscanini in this work. In addition to various spoken items, the supplemental material which fills out the second CD gives us a portion of Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture in rehearsal. We hear Toscanini at white-hot energy and drive urging his players on in Italian and English, at times with pleasure and at times in frustration. It reminds us of the effort required to achieve the results which concert goers and radio listeners enjoyed.
This Immortal Performances release is indispensable for those with an interest in the conductor and orchestra, and also for those whose musical interests include comparing different performances by great interpreters. As usual with this label, the written material is beautifully presented, informative, and well written, a beautiful addition to that which we hear on the CDs. Those CDs include informative interviews, but, perhaps most unexpectedly, a separate booklet shares Richard Caniell’s own exposure in his extreme youth to Toscanini and those broadcasts from Studio 8H. I found his writing [deeply] moving and commend it to you as an amplification of the interest of these truly historic performances.”
- James Forrest, FANFARE, Nov./Dec., 2016