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A Rave for Definitive Tchaikovsky Performances by Toscanini
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The 1,000 word limit imposed here for reviews easily could be surpassed if this essential item in the Toscanini broadcast canon were truly analyzed. For this release contains readings which are in almost every way superior in concentration, dramatic sweep, and coherence to the commercially- released recording sessions by Toscanini. MANFRED SYMPHONY: Though the 1949 commercial taping on RCA / BMG Toscanini Collection CD has fantastic, crisp, and powerful (though compressed) sound, and this 1940 aircheck has little energy above the region of 5 kHz, nevertheless this earlier of Toscanini's several NBC productions of the piece is the more powerful and sustained of the two available readings. It must be noted that the conductor considerably cuts the score, and makes changes that are at odds with his "purist" reputation; yet they are not nearly as noticeable as the prunings and re-orchestrations of, say, Stokowski. This recording preserves a truly emotionally overwhelming experience!PATHETIQUE SYMPHONY: Though I have a fondness for the slow, grave, and valedictory performance from 1954 (with its embarrassing first-movement ensemble lapse), this 1941 live performance, recorded in the rich ambience of Carnegie Hall, is finer in every way, benefitting from its greater drive and intensity, and a total lack of any trace of bathos. The commercial 1947 78- rpm performance is much more inhibited than this reading.TEMPEST: This rarely played Tchaikovsky tone poem was done by the NBC Symphony under Stokowski in 1943 in a performance which exhibited MUCH more color and emotion; perhaps Toscanini played it the following season for some specific reason to point up the differences between his approach and Stokowski's (who was on the "outs" at NBC due to his adventuresome repertoire choices, including Schoenberg!) The Toscanini reading, though exciting when encountered on its own, must be admitted to be inferior to the (unreleased) Stokowski broadcast. Here, under the Italian Maestro, some of the repetitious bombast is more evident than as interpreted by Stokowski. The sound is quite good for the period.PIANO CONCERTO NO. 1: This is a fascinating alternative to the two commercially- issued "approved" recordings from 1941 and 1943. Here in this 1941 broadcast, Horowitz catches fire and plays with more spontaneity than in his commercial 78 with Toscanini: it is a hair- raising experience!VOYEVODA: This piece is the overture to an early Tchaikovsky opera, his Opus 3, and NOT the late tone poem also called "The Voyevoda", op. 78. The overture has been rarely recorded (there IS a version available on Vox Box CD) so this Toscanini performance is really quite rare: the conductor is not said to have cared for many of the composer's works, though he continually advocated the Sixth Symphony, Nutcracker, and First Piano Concerto. Why did the Maestro play this early, fustian piece? One cannot fathom the reason. The 1941 Carnegie Hall live performance is at the very least, powerful and strongly projected. It is amusing to note that the competitive issue on Relief CD has provided the documentation NOT for the correct overture, op. 3, but for the op. 78 tone poem: the annotator for the CD apparently never heard the recording, or did not know too much about Tchaikovsky's works! This is a specialty item for the "Compleat Toscanini Collector" rather than a more universally desirable item. As usual, Music & Arts provides extensive and valuable documentation. We have encouraged them to stick with TRUE single channel mono for their Toscanini issues, and here they have done so, offering honest, "in house" original RCA sound. Do not miss this release; be sure to get it and NOT a cheezy ripoff bootleg with faked audio reproduction."