Arturo Toscanini

R. Strauss: Don Quixote; Haydn: Symphony No. 32 'Oxford'

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Compared with Beethoven's symphonies, Haydn's symphonies turned up relatively rarely on Toscanini's programs, and this 1944 recording of the "Oxford" with the NBC Symphony is his only extant recording of the work. It is a characteristically strong-lined, clear-eyed interpretation with snappy tempos in the outer movements, a light-footed Adagio cantabile, and a Menuetto that comes close to a Scherzo in tempo. Anyone who enjoys the Italian conductor's way with the late Classical repertoire will surely want to hear this recording.

As his four Death and Transfigurations, four Don Juans, and three Till Eulenspiegels testify, some works by Richard Strauss were staples of Toscanini's programs. There are even two recordings of Don Quixote, both with the NBC Symphony: this 1938 account with Emanuel Feuermann in the title role and a 1953 reading with Frank Miller as the Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance. Of the two, this one is clearly superior. It's not that Miller was a lesser cellist. As principal of the NBC Symphony under the irascible Italian, he dared not be any less than magnificent. But Feuermann is clearly a soloist, and he takes over the role in a way Miller does not, creating a portrait of Don Quixote that is both more noble and more whimsical than Miller. As he usually did when confronted with a star soloist, Toscanini provides ungrudging and unstinting support. Opus Kura's sound is clean but hooded in the Haydn and close but vivid in the Strauss.

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