C1463. ARTURO TOSCANINI Cond. NBC S.O. & Westminster Chorale: TE DEUM; w.Zinka Milanov, Bruna Castagna, Jussi Björling & Nicola Moscona: MANZONI REQUIEM (both Verdi). (Canada) 2–Immortal Performances IPCD 1073, Live Performance, 23 Nov., 1940, Carnegie Hall, with commentary by Gene Hamilton; Toscanini Memorial Tributes and Reminiscences, incl. Announcer Ben Grauer reading RCA’s David Sarnoff’s reflections on Toscanini’s death; Soprano Lotte Lehmann recalling her collaborations with Toscanini; Recollections by Toscanini photographer Robert Hupka; 'The Impact of Toscanini', a 1963 WQXR program with Martin Bookspan, and music critic and NBC Music Executive Samuel Chotzinoff. Transfers by Richard Caniell. - 019962447716
“If you already have this 1940 Requiem from Music & Arts, which produced a fine version in 2012, why buy this new IP set? This IP restoration is simply in superb sound. It makes the M & A discs seem like there is a blanket over the sound. IP is better balanced and more open as well as brighter throughout, the voices coming out loud and clear with little distortion….Congratulations to all at IP for such a magnificent new version of this splendidly sung Verdi Requiem.”
- David Cutler, THE RECORD COLLECTOR, 2017
“This famous performance of Verdi’s great ‘Manzoni’ Requiem, often reviewed in these pages, along with others of the conductor’s performances, is offered here in a remastering which, I feel confident in saying, surpasses any other I have heard, and is unlikely to be surpassed or even equaled any time soon. In preparation of this review…I also investigated the responses and wisdom of several of the numerous FANFARE commentators regarding earlier issues of this performance, and also other Toscanini REQUIEMS, which we are fortunate to have available to us. Indeed, the present issue actually brings a closing of the circle of releases on the part of restorer Richard Caniell: Immortal Performances has previously issued the 4 March, 1938 NBC Symphony broadcast of the REQUIEM and TE DEUM, and also the somewhat more famous BBC performance of 27 May, 1938 which at least one of our former writers has enshrined in the Hall of Fame and is a personal favorite of mine. We can now add this 1940 performance to those.
My first hearing of this new mastering was little short of hair-raising….this Immortal Performances release, part of a major devoir to the conductor on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of his birth, quite supersedes [all previous issues].
In what way is this superior, may you ask? To my ear, clarity, honesty of timbre, and sheer sonic impact. While Milanov and Björling sound like themselves in the various issues I have heard, Castagna and Moscona are vocally reborn in the new release. The Westminster Choir also can be heard more clearly and in better balance with the orchestra. The aural image of the chorus particularly affects the TE DEUM, which on these discs properly opens the program (as it did in Carnegie Hall).
To my taste, this is THE great Toscanini performance of the TE DEUM….the sonic resuscitation here is arresting, and we can hear the conductor at the height of his powers, balancing tension and repose in this lovely piece.
As ever with Immortal Performances, the text and graphics accompanying the discs are of top quality - attractive in layout and informative in content. Further, the performance of the REQUIEM is followed by various spoken offerings, including a fascinating discussion with audiologist and amateur photographer Robert Hupka who, as an NBC employee in the 1940s, had the opportunity to take many candid photographs of Toscanini in action. Here, however, he discusses sonics.
These are the finest remasterings I have heard of two works comprising one of the 20th century’s most notable concert performances - a great conductor, orchestra, chorus, and soloists operating at or near their very peak, in music which this conductor was born to conduct and these soloists born to sing.”
- James Forrest, FANFARE, Nov./Dec., 2016
“For many…a 23 November, 1940 Carnegie Hall broadcast with the Westminster Choir and NBC Symphony Orchestra is a far more compelling document of Toscanini’s way with one of Verdi’s towering masterpieces. The most noticeable differences are the 1940 performance’s far more expansive tempos. But there is also a remarkable flexibility of phrasing that gives the music an extraordinary vibrancy, beauty, and dramatic momentum. The all-star vocal quartet (Zinka Milanov, Bruna Castagna, Jussi Björling, Nicola Moscona) rises to the occasion.
In my [earlier] review I suggested that, perhaps, the 1938 BBC performance, with even broader tempos and greater application of rubato than the 1940 counterpart is, in its own way, more impressive. Further, the Immortal Performances remastering of the 1938 REQUIEM represents a considerable sonic improvement over the previous, and highly admirable, 2004 release on the Testament label (SBT2 1362). But when comparing the 1938 and 1940 performances, we are talking about gradations of rarefied greatness, both in terms of Toscanini’s interpretation and the musicians’ realization of it. I believe that both the 1938 and 1940 concerts are essential listening, and deserve to be heard in the best sound possible. In the case of the 1938 BBC broadcast, the Immortal Performances release is the one to own.
The Immortal Performances release also includes additional features not found on the M & A issues. While the M & A releases have one track each for the ‘Dies irae’, ‘Offertorio’, and ‘Libera me’ sections of the REQUIEM, Immortal Performances assigns a track to each sub-section (especially appreciated when attempting to play and replay Jussi Björling’s glorious ‘Ingemisco’!). Portions of announcer Gene Hamilton’s broadcast commentary precede and follow both the TE DEUM and REQUIEM. As an appendix, the second disc also includes numerous spoken tributes: A eulogy by music critic Howard Taubman; Announcer Ben Grauer reads RCA’s David Sarnoff’s reflections on Toscanini’s death; Soprano Lotte Lehmann recalls her collaborations with Toscanini; Recollections by Toscanini photographer Robert Hupka; ‘The Impact of Toscanini’, a 1963 WQXR program with Martin Bookspan, and music critic and NBC Music Executive Samuel Chotzinoff.
My favorite among these is Lehmann’s tribute, overflowing with the German soprano’s characteristic warmth, humanity, and humility. Also included are essays by Robert Matthew-Walker, Richard Caniell and Olin Downes, as well as artist bios, and a brief appreciation of Toscanini by Lawrence Gilman….if you are acquiring this legendary concert for the first time, the new Immortal Performances release is a strong first choice. I am delighted to have the Immortal Performances set, and will use it as my reference for this overwhelming performance.”
- Ken Meltzer, FANFARE, Nov./Dec., 2016
"...the performance's salient virtues [include] Jussi Björling's full yet conversational, effortless 'Ingemisco' (superior to his singing 20 years later in Fritz Reiner's commercial recording) [and] Zinka Milanov proclaim[ing] the opening of 'Libera me', - its recitative-like phrases with such presence and authority….No Verdi lover or Toscanini buff should go through life without hearing this very special REQUIEM.”
- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com