Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|R. Strauss, Miller, Toscanini|
Toscanini Collection, Vol. 30 - Strauss: Don Quixote/ Death and Transfiguration
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A Deeply-Moving Account of Valedictory Performances
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In both cases, Toscanini gives his final thoughts on great Richard Strauss tone poems, with the well- tuned NBC ensemble (playing by now with the panache and elegance of a truly professional orchestra.) Luckily the engineers captured these concerts in Carnegie Hall, since the Maestro's radio program was moved from Studio 8-H to the venerable auditorium in 1950: "Death" dates from 10 March 1952, and "Don" was accomplished on 22 November 1953.Play this recording "anonymously" for a Toscanini hater, and you will surprise her. Many people claim that the Maestro played everything "fast, fast, and faster!" and was always "as mad as hell". Here, each phrase is cherished and shaped with loving care: the readings are considerably more expansive than those of other conductors (especially Richard Strauss's own interpretations, which are comparatively 'matter of fact'.) Toscanini broadcasts from the earliest years of the NBC Symphony concerts (released best on the Music & Arts transfers) compete for intensity and spirit: in 1938 the Maestro (a relatively 'young' man of about 71!) drives the ensemble with his inexorable force of will. These RCA recordings, however, have a more autumnal approach, enhanced in spaciousness by the Carnegie Hall acoustic."Death" takes a leisurely 24:51; compare this to Steinberg or Bruno Walter at under 22 minutes. The slower tempo allows Toscanini to produce a really wrenching, tortured death struggle, and a luminous and deeply- moving transfiguration. "Don Quixote" has all the fantasy inherent in the score's magical evocation of the Cervantes novel: for this listener, only the crackling Fournier/Szell stereo recording on Sony Masterworks Heritage offers serious competition to the Toscanini broadcast.I would have given this release 5 stars if the RCA transfer engineers had been content to use the pristine monaural broadcast tapes. However, engineer David Satz has added some digital stereophonic ambience and phase- shifting in order to simulate two-channel sound; it is noticeably worse in the "Death" tracks, and detracts from the quality of the musical production values. Please play this CD with your preamp switched to L+R MONO mode for best results (headphone listening in 'stereo' is unpleasant due to the addition of the odd, varying digital delays.) Since the vast majority of releases in the RCA / BMG Toscanini Collection are in true mono, one cannot understand the selective decision to alter this, and a few other releases, with phony stereo and echo: the original monaural Red Seal LPs were better.Sonic issues aside, one should grab this release while it is still available, and shun any other "unofficial" transfer. At the budget price, one will derive much satisfaction, even if this disk does not achieve the pinnacle of perfection."
Powerful Strauss performances
Robert E. Nylund | Ft. Wayne, Indiana United States | 02/06/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There's no question that Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957) admired the German composer Richard Strauss (1864-1949). Toscanini often gave powerful performances of Strauss' music and these two performances are excellent examples.
"Death and Transfiguration" was performed with great feeling as Toscanini managed to bring out all of the emotions present in Strauss' music of a dying man who reflects on his life before he finally passes on, presumably to experience the glories of the hereafter. It's questionable as to how religious Strauss may have been; however, when the composer neared the end of his long life, he acknowledged that "Death and Transfiguration" had definitely anticipated what he was going through and hoped to experience very soon.
Both of these recordings were made in Carnegie Hall, which became the permanent home of the NBC Symphony in the fall of 1950, when NBC decided to convert Studio 8-H to a television studio. The few Toscanini concerts that were telecast from Studio 8-H had to be made with cameras, special lighting, and other equipment brought in by NBC's sports department! It's clear that Carnegie Hall has always had superb acoustics and recording engineers preferred to record the NBC Symphony there, rather than 8-H, even when the broadcasts were still taking place in Radio City.
"Death and Transfiguration" is overwhelming in this performance. It surpasses the earlier recording with the Philadelphia Orchestra because the fidelity is so much better. It is also clear that the NBC Symphony played with great precision and power. This was another case where the string section particularly excelled, proving the comments of some listeners of Toscanini's concerts that few recordings could convey the wonderful sounds that Toscanini achieved (possibly because the Maestro had been a cellist).
There are incredible climaxes in the music, sometimes reminding this writer of the legendary report that a broadcast performance of this same music virtually knocked the studio audience out of their seats! At the very end, as if to prove Toscanini's strong involvement in the music, one hears an audible sigh or moan from the Maestro; remarkably, RCA did not eliminate this unexpected sound by having Toscanini redo the section. Actually, Toscanini himself approved this recording.
Toscanini clearly had great success with the delightful musical telling of Cervantes' "Knight of the Woeful Countenance," Don Quixote. This is very challenging music and the NBC Symphony excelled in this performance. The recording benefits, too, from the advanced recording technques developed by RCA in its legendary "New Orthophonic" process, much as Mercury had achieved with its "Living Presence" recordings with Rafael Kubelik, Antal Dorati, and Howard Hanson. There is a clarity in the recording that helps one to appreciate the wonderful playing by the NBC Symphony during its final year of existence.