NBC Symphony Orchestra / Arturo Toscanini

Anthology 2: NBC SO (1950-53)

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On its Arturo Toscanini: Anthology 2 NBC SO (1950-1953), Japanese label Opus Kura rather boldly announces the sources of its Toscanini compilation on the front cover: "UK-HMV (LP)." It's drawn from the contents of two different collections of Toscanini conducting the NBC Symphony as issued on English LPs, and every one of these recordings has also been released on domestic American RCA Victor CDs, though not combined in this fashion. Nevertheless, these pieces are presented in far superior sound quality on RCA, mostly at only one remove from the original session tapes. This Opus Kura release is merely a filtered copy of what was on the British LPs, which were good pressings, but with the additional filtering the Opus Kura disc is very, very quiet and when you get it up to a level that's comfortable the sound is shrill and lacking in low end. That isn't to say that these aren't fabulous performances; Toscanini had a special way with just about all of the literature combined here -- the Bizet Carmen Suite, anything Berlioz, and the Sorcerer's Apprentice in particular -- and the NBC Symphony has a taut maneuverability that responds exactly to the maestro's whims; fits him like a glove. But you can say that about 80% of the recordings Toscanini did with the NBC Symphony, which was, after all, created for him and treated as a highest level endeavor by both the NBC radio and television network -- which created the original broadcasts -- and RCA Victor, which circulated the recordings. Sometimes small label reissues like these are useful in obtaining performances not circulated through regular channels, but everything here is available in that domain. You owe it to yourself to acquire them that way, and not to deal with the limited sound reproduction on this Opus Kura release.

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