Arturo Toscanini

Arturo Toscanini Collection, Vol. 67-70: The Philadelphia Orchestra Recordings

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While these recordings of Arturo Toscanini leading the Philadelphia Orchestra were always a matter of pride to RCA -- look, here's America's best-known conductor leading one of America's best-loved orchestras! -- they are also something of an embarrassment to RCA -- look, here's America's best-known conductor leading an orchestra that's not the NBC Symphony, the orchestra he hand picked and we paid for, and sounding a heck of a lot better. What does sounding better mean? It means sounding more polished, more together, more colorful, more comfortable, and a whole lot less intimidated by the man wielding the baton. Where Toscanini seemed to rule the NBC Symphony through a combination of fear, fury, and disdain, he seemed to enjoy his almost collegial relationship with the Philadelphia and the handful of recordings he made with them are far easier to listen to than the plethora of recordings he made with the NBC. In these performances, there's amazing energy in Schubert's C major Symphony, incredible drama in Strauss' Tod und Verklärung, tremendous beauty in Debussy's La Mer and Iberia, fabulous colors in Respighi's Feste romane, evanescent light in the Queen Mab Scherzo from Berlioz's Roméo et Juliette Symphony, elfin grace in the incidental music to Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream, and abysmal despair in Tchaikovsky's Pathétique Symphony. Surely among the very greatest performances in Toscanini's recorded career, this three-disc set belongs in any comprehensive collection of the Italian conductor's work. RCA's remastered sound is clean and direct and lacking only depth and immediacy.

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