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CD Review

Arturo Toscanini Anthology II

NBC Symphony Orchestra/Arturo Toscanini
Opus Kura OPK7047
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Like "Anthology I", these British LP pressings have been "officially" issued by American RCA, notably on RCA Victor Red Seal 74321-59484-2 and 74321-66924-2. When reviewed by Mr. Raymond Tuttle in 2000, my colleague pointed out that these showpieces sounded fine, but often were a victim of their own tension and seriousness. Opus Kura's excellent re-mastering cannot change that entirely, but these performances still manage to tell us what all the hype was about when it came to Toscanini.

I tend to agree with Mr. Tuttle's preferences 15 years later. The Danse Macabre is measured in approach, and features excellent solo playing allied to the Maestro's characteristic discipline. Equally alluring are an intense Finlandia and flowing Moldau. I also appreciate the Berlioz selections for their excitement and clarity. The Carmen Suite is fine, but like the Brahms on OPK7046, is not multi-tracked. The NBC Symphony never was the finest band in New York, but they certainly give what they have, and some of these performances are quite a bit above simply being compelling.

Albany Music distributes these Japanese titles at a reasonable cost, and for those not wishing to go all in on a Toscanini box set, this and "Anthology I" demonstrate the conductor and orchestra at their most versatile. The sound is perfectly acceptable in these transfers, with all but one selection recorded at Carnegie Hall. The Danse Macabre is a Studio 8H product, but isn't terrible. If you want to sample Toscanini, he's not the easiest conductor with which to do so. I suggest you start here.

Copyright © 2015, Brian Wigman