ARTURO TOSCANINI - Debut Concert - December 25, 1937
GERSHWIN: Rhapsody in Blue (Oct. 20, 1948). Ravel: Rapsodie
espagnole (October14,1949). BUSONI: Violin Concerto, Op.
35a (May 9, 1949). CHERUBINI:
Anacreon Overture (March 7, 1949). HINDEMITH: Piano Concerto
(Sept. 5, 1949). GENZMER: Concerto for Flute and Chamber Orchestra (December
9, 1950). COPLAND: Appalachian Spring (April 4, 1950). TISSEN:
Suite from Hamlet. Suite from Salambo. Symphony No.
2 "Die and Become." (October
7, 1957). SCHWARZ-SCHILLING: Introductiuon and Fugue for String Orchestra
(April 11, 1949).
WAGNER: Die Walküre
Guild has the intriguing idea of coupling Arturo Toscanini's first and last concerts with the NBC Symphony, which he led for about sixteen years. The first was Christmas Day 1937, the last April 4, 1954. All of these performances have been issued previously, and Guild's transfers are as good as any—however, the dry sound of Studio 8H doesn't flatter orchestral sound, nor does it hide some scrappy playing in the Mozart which must have the fastest final movement ever recorded. The final concert, from Carnegie Hall, has typical sound for the venue at the time, and in spite of Toscanini's brief memory laspe it is difficult to tell that he was having problems. If Toscanini fans don't already have these important concerts, this is a fine way to acquire them.
Audite's three-disc set offers a group of radio recordings taped for RAIS 1948-1950 by eccentric Rumanian conductor Sergiu Celibidache (1912-1996) . After studying philosophy, Celibidache turned to music and soon was recognized as a major young conductor. He was principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic 1945-1952, the period when Wilhelm Furtwängler was exiled in Switzerland, after which he directed radio orchestras in Stockholm, Stuttgart, and Paris. He then began his long association with the RIAS orchestra. In 1979 Celibidache became director of the Munich Philharmonic where he remained until a few months before his death in 1996. Throughout his career he demanded extensive rehearsals, and, as he aged, his interpretations became slower and slower. However, Munich loved him and gave him what he wanted in rehearsal time. As he disliked making recordings, most of his work is heard from live broadcasts. I've found most of his later recordings rather boring, although detail is extraordinary. Celibidache at his best can be viewed in his extraordinary Ravel/Debussy concert taped in 1994 available on DVD (REVIEW). The Rapsodie espagnole takes about 20 minutes (!!); the new issue of his 1948 performance is about 4 minutes shorter. The Audite set offers repertory usually not associated with the conductor: Gershwin and Copland, as well as concertos by Hindemith and Genzmer. Things go downhill rapidly with music on disk 3. German composer Heinz Tiessen (1887-1971) was a teacher who obviously had connections; Richard Strauss was responsible for Tiessen 's association with the Berlin State Opera. Tiessen composed relatively little, no loss whatever for the musical world based on the three works in this set led by Celibidache, who had studied with Tiessen. These weak scores are of minimal interest except as oddities, and the same could be said of Introduction and Fugue for Strings by Reinhard Schwarz-Schilling (1904-1985) who also was prominent on the German music scene at the time. All of these performances were remastered from the original RAIS tapes, with reasonably good mono sound. Admirers of Celibidache will welcome this; others should skip it.
Pristine Audio has completed their issue of the legendary 1953 RAI Ring conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler (Rheingold was previously mentioned on this site - REVIEW). This performance of Wagner's masterpiece is essential to collectors. The cast is superlative throughout. Today's opera houses would eagerly hire a tenor of the quality of Ludwig Suthaus who sings the demanding role of Siegfried with endless stamina. He was a favorite of Furtwängler and was Tristan in the conductor's definitive recording of that opera made in 1952 (with Kirsten Flagstad as Brünnhilde). Martha Mödl (1912-2001) was a leading Wagnerian soprano at the time and is in top form in this Ring. The entire cast and Italian orchestra are galvanized by the conductor. A major point in this reissue is the quality of the XR remastering by Andrew Rose, a process that brings new life and presence to original tapes. No libretti are provided, but that should not be a problem for most collectors. Don't miss this major release! These are available only from PRISTINE AUDIO. And they have our gratitude!!
R.E.B. (June 2011)