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CD Review

Arturo Toscanini Anthology I

NBC Symphony Orchestra/Arturo Toscanini
Opus Kura OPK7046
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These RCA recordings have been taken from HMV LPs in the United Kingdom. Opus Kura seems to prefer British source material for their Toscanini releases, and by and large these sound very fine. Less essential now that RCA has put huge effort into reissuing their "official" transfers, these Albany distributed discs are still very useful for collectors who don't need everything the Maestro ever did.

Billed simply as "Anthology I" in English, this is a pleasing hodgepodge of the conductor's encores and lighter fare. For a conductor so feared and revered, it's amazing just how well he makes these incidental pieces go. The Brahms features all the swagger you could want, though all four dances are inexplicably on one track. All of the overtures and preludes justify Toscanini's formidable reputation as a man of the theatre, along with a surprisingly playful (but also direct and incisive) Dance of the Hours.

The disc concludes with an almost frighteningly intense Sorcerer's Apprentice, featuring hair-raising speed while somehow also retaining the music's charm. Some of these items were released on RCA Victor Red Seal 74321-66924-2, but I can't imagine that's easy to find these days. Raymond Tuttle found some of these selections a touch too serious in his 2000 review of the RCA, but in the 15 years that have passed, I find these performances revelatory compared to many of today's podium micromanagers. The sound is acceptable, with all but the Dukas recorded at Carnegie Hall. The Dukas was set down at Studio 8H, and is typically dry as burnt toast. Overall though, the monaural sonics are fine, and you can't get this program as is anywhere else.

Copyright © 2015, Brian Wigman