C0961. ARTURO TOSCANINI Cond. NBC S.O. & New York Schola Cantorum, w.Zinka Milanov, Bruna Castagna, Charles Kullman & Nicola Moscona: MANZONI REQUIEM (Verdi), Live Performance, 4 March, 1938; Toscanini Cond. NBC S.O. & Westminster Choir; w.Vivian della Chiesa, Jan Peerce & Nicola Moscona: All-Verdi Concert, Live Performance, 31 Jan., 1943. (Canada) 2-Immortal Performances IPCD 1009. Transfers by Richard Caniell. - 625989645624
"The 1938 REQUIEM is Toscanini's first NBC performance of the work, recorded under notoriously problematic conditions, via telephone lines from Carnegie Hall to NBC's studios. Previous releases have been fatally plagued by phone-line interference, ruinously high noise levels, and chronic pitch instability. Richard Caniell's new restoration uses a far superior source from the collection of Richard Gardner, Toscanini's favorite recording engineer from his RCA days. [This] 1938 performance has a special keenness, edge, and freshness that set it apart from the sometimes slightly more polished later NBC versions of 1940, 1948, and 1951. On a general level, the interpretation as a whole has all the features familiar from Toscanini's other versions. As for the solo quartet, Milanov's performance is the freshest-voiced of her three versions with Toscanini in 1938 (NBC and BBC) and 1940 (NBC), in suppleness, concentration of line, and dramatic responsiveness. Her dynamic control is breathtaking. Castagna sings with superb technical command and concentrated richness of tone in her low register. The two women make a veritable dream team, the way they sing off one another in their duets ('Recordare'; 'Agnus Dei'). The men are hardly less impressive. This is Kullman's only preserved performance of the work with Toscanini, and it is a memorable one, of great technical accuracy, refinement, and a gorgeous lyricism. Moscona, who replaced Pinza at short notice, is clean and incisive. The chorus members respond to Toscanini as if their lives depended on it.
The all-Verdi concert from 1943 is much more than a mere bonus offering; indeed, I'd be tempted to use this concert to persuade any doubters of Toscanini's status as the greatest conductor of Verdi in recorded history. This seems to be the first release of the complete concert, and in superbly smooth, realistic sound. These are truly the stuff of legends. The solo trio (I LOMBARDI) combines high technical discipline with thrilling dramatic abandon; the chorus (NABUCCO) is extraordinarily responsive to Toscanini's minutely nuanced yet powerfully sweeping shaping of the melodic line. The sense of occasion is palpable, with the audience spontaneously erupting at the conclusion of the HYMN OF THE NATIONS (complete with appended 'Star-Spangled Banner'). Simply unforgettable, and it will now be a tall order indeed for any usurper to dislodge this from my next Want' List."
- Boyd Pomeroy, FANFARE, July/Aug., 2011
"Although, as with any Toscanini performance, the listener's appreciation will naturally be centered upon that of the conductor, we cannot end one's observations without a consideration of his soloists. In particular, Zinka Milanov, the great Yugoslav soprano, one of the most supreme Verdi artists of her time, is here heard at her very best, indeed, for many connoisseurs her assumption of this demanding part is superior to those surviving recordings of her 1938 (BBC) and 1940 (NBC). In many respects, Milanov's singing here is a revelation. Her broad-flowing cantilena is heard at its finest, at the same time as the compelling timbre of her dramatic yet supremely agile technique is immaculately styled. Such a grand style of singing is surely entirely authentic when confronted by such vocal writing as Verdi's. As for Charles Kullman, he possesses a genuine ringing tenor voice almost of equal distinction. The existence of these particular lacquers was evidently not known to Harvey Sachs or Mortimer Frank, both renowned authors of books about Toscanini. Although this NBC broadcast was not heard in the US, it was transmitted by shortwave to Europe. What was broadcast overseas from NBC was simultaneously recorded [by RCA] using landlines from Carnegie Hall....In addition, the complete 1943 all-Verdi broadcast is included as a bonus, including a truly electrifying performance of the 'Hymn of the Nations', the first in America, performed previous to the OWI film (which has been previously issued). This 1943 performance has many special things in it, including very good sound.
- Robert Matthew-Walker, Program Notes
"I suspected Toscanini would carry this [operatic] tradition to new heights, but was astonished a relatively quiet and restrained reading, one that suppresses all the operatic mannerisms and noisy intrusions, and ends up about the finest performance of the work I've ever heard. The sound has been greatly improved and lovingly restored by Richard Caniell who is to be congratulated for accomplishing what initially appeared to be an essentially impossible task."
- John P. McKelvey, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, May / June, 2011
"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 debut, 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