Toscanini was always at his best on home ground and here he brings an incredible amount of insight, verve and passion to three 'Italianate' pieces that were evidently very close to his heart.
The 'Norma' Introduction and Druids' Chorus is packed with romantic beauty and the NBC Symphony certainly respond to the great conductor's urgency and coaxing of the music. Nicola Moscona is a fine bass and he brings power and authority to this 1945 relay.
Verdi's 'Te Deum' is a broad, sweeping work that is also finely dispatched here. Toscanini finds a certain noble quality to the sometimes mundane inspiration and he is well aided by a full throated chorus. This is however the least memorable recording on this disc.
The best is however left till last here and that is definitely the titanic majesty of Boito's 'Mefistofele' Prologue. Although the chorus sounds quite Americanized in diction, the raw power and intense commitment of Toscanini brought me to my feet as did the lucky audience! The concluding notes of the Salve Regina are unique in the history of this opera, it is a moment that you will return to again and again.
As usual Guild's Toscanini edition is replete with extensive notes that always make fascinating reading. This series is fast turning into an essential and highly prized document of recordings by the master.
Copyright © 2003, Gerald Fenech