Arturo Toscanini

Schubert: Symphony No. 2; Grand Duo

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With not one but two world-premiere releases of works Toscanini never otherwise recorded, this disc will be required listening for the conductor's fans. And to make the disc even more appealing, not only is one of the premieres by a major composer, the other premiere is of a rarely played transcription of a work by the same major composer. Add to that some of the clearest and warmest sound ever granted to Toscanini and anyone who admires the Italian conductor will have to hear this disc. The question is, will people enjoy it?

Perhaps not. Why? Because the major composer of both works is Schubert, and Toscanini, for all his breadth of repertoire, was not the right conductor for Schubert. How so? If Toscanini's approach to Beethoven could be characterized as Rossini in a bad mood, Toscanini's approach to Schubert could be characterized as Beethoven's younger, less patient brother in an even worse mood. In the Second Symphony, Toscanini sounds annoyed almost to anger: over-stressing accents, over-driving tempos, and forcing climaxes to be bigger and louder than anything the composer might have had in mind. In Joachim's orchestral transcription of the Grand Duo for piano four hands, Toscanini sounds positively furious: pushing forward the brass, juicing up the dynamics, and inflating the role of the late nineteenth century percussion section until it all but suffocates the rest of the orchestra at the climax. Thus, while Toscanini's fans may be curious to hear previously unreleased recordings by the maestro, they may or may not be entirely satisfied with his interpretations.

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