Robert E. Nylund | Ft. Wayne, Indiana United States | 01/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The true measure of Toscanini's greatness can be heard in the compilation of standard repertoire included in this compact disc.
Maurice Ravel's orchestration of Modeste Mussorgsky's piano pieces "Pictures at an Exhibition" was one of Toscanini's personal favorites. He once said that the Ravel orchestration was one of the greatest examples of the art of orchestration. His 1953 "studio" recording of the fascinating pieces was made in Carnegie Hall and was a leading example of RCA Victor's "New Orthophonic" high fidelity process, using a single full range microphone that was suspended above Toscanini's head. These are definitive performances with exceptional sound.
Richard Strauss' "Death and Transfiguration" has seldom been played with more power than in this recording by Toscanini and the outstanding NBC Symphony Orchestra. The dramatic sections are played with such intensity that it almost overwhelms the listener. Toscanini's devotion to the music was such that he seemed to give a loud, audible sigh near the end of the piece and this was captured in the recording.
Toscanini fully appreciated Strauss' "Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks" as he captured the mischievous nature of the imp, leading to his ultimately tragic end, while he continued to laugh and make fun of everyone. The performance is thoroughly delightful and enjoyable.
Toscanini found much to treasure in Brahms' lush "Variations on a Theme of Haydn." He first recorded this wonderful work with the New York Philharmonic. With the NBC Symphony Orchestra, he had the advantage of much better sound, due to advances in recording technology. Although the recording was made in NBC Studio 8-H, during a broadcast concert, the results were top-notch. All of the variations are treated with great care and precision, resulting in superlative performances by the NBC musicians.
The Maestro excelled in all of the other works in this compilation. He chose four of the orchestrated "Hungarian Dances" of Johannes Brahms and gave them really brilliant performances. The sound is true high fidelity and the music is played with fervor.
Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite" was rarely played with such precision and enthusiasm." This is very familiar music that is given a "new look" and wonderfully played.
Sibelius' "Finlandia" is dark and powerful, leading to an ultimately triumphal climax. Toscanini conducted other works of Sibelius, primarily early with the NBC Symphony, and only the second symphony and "Pohjola's Daughter," both dating from 1940, were commercially issued.
Finally, there is the brilliant 1950 recording (in NBC Studio 8-H) of Smetana's "The Moldau," still one of the greatest recordings ever made of the work and perhaps one of Toscanini's "top ten" performances. Once you've heard this performance you will seldom be satisfied with other performances; the only possible exception may by the wonderful complete Teldec recording by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra of all six of the symphonic poems that make up Smetana's "My Country" series.
Michael B. Richman | Portland, Maine USA | 10/04/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"While I am just beginning to explore the world of Arturo Toscanini as a classical collector, I do feel qualified to comment on this particular set. Like many children, I grew up with Toscanini's Beethoven Cycle playing in the background while I played with my toys. On a subconscious level, his interpretations have probably influenced the way I have listened to every Beethoven Symphony to date. The works collected here on Volume 8 of "The Immortal Arturo Toscanini" are clearly not as significant as his Beethoven (or for that matter his Brahms) Symphony accounts, but they are nonetheless enjoyable. These recordings of various orchestral showpieces are all exquisitely performed, with the Mussorgsky/Ravel "Pictures" and Brahms "Haydn Variations" the highlights for yours truly. All of the performances featured here were made from 1951-53, and are in mono, but RCA/BMG has done a magnificent job of remastering this entire series. The Beethoven Symphonies would be the obvious place to start if you are looking to discover this great conductor, but a collection like this featuring works from a variety of composers will clearly illustrate what made Toscanini's interpretations so well-loved."