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Gershwin: An American in Paris / Grofe: Grand Canyon Suite

5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Audio CD, June 9, 1992
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Editorial Reviews

Arturo Toscanini ~ American In Paris

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. An American In Paris
  2. El Capitan
  3. Grand Canyon Ste: Sunrise
  4. Grand Canyon Ste: Painted Desert
  5. Grand Canyon Ste: On The Trail
  6. Grand Canyon Ste: Sunset
  7. Grand Canyon Ste: Cloudburst
  8. Adagio, Op.11
  9. The Stars And Stripes Forever
  10. The Star-Spangled Banner


Product Details

  • Orchestra: NBC Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: Toscanini
  • Composer: Gershwin, Grofe
  • Audio CD (June 9, 1992)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: RCA Legacy
  • ASIN: B000003EY1
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #394,609 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

The listener is advised to play this CD with care: very few musically- sensitive souls will feel in the mood to hear BOTH the "Grand Canyon Suite" and the Barber "Adagio for Strings" in the same auditing session.
Taken individually, each performance is a classic, and is a well- recorded example of 1940s record technology. But it was nevertheless essential in the days of 78s to "squash" the loud passages, lest they 'over cut' the record grooves or distort the listener's playback. So you will find very little variance between loud and soft, especially in the "Grand Canyon" reading.
However, surely no other conductor has approached this score as if it were a true masterwork, lavishing such passionate commitment and care on what is, after all, a rather cheesy piece. If Toscanini cannot convince you of its minor virtues, no one can.
The Gershwin recording was considered by earlier critics to be severe and clipped, evidence of the Maestro not understanding the casual American jazz style. Today, however, now that we have been exposed to reissues of the composer's OWN performances of various piano pieces, we realize that Gershwin played his music with jaunty intensity, not lingering over the sentimental passages. Toscanini follows suit; only the earlier 1943 live broadcast offers a bit more expression and relaxation. This 1945 waxing, transferred perfectly to the digital medium, was a brilliant accomplishment.
The world- premiere broadcast of the Barber "Adagio" was given by Toscanini in an NBC program in 1938; that (unreleased) reading was much more deeply- felt and emotional than this rather patrician and detached recording session of 1941.
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Although a patriotic Italian (who was anti-fascist and came to detest Mussolini), Arturo Toscanini had great respect and admiration for the United States of America, especially during the years he led the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and then the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Toscanini conducted only a handful of American works with the New York Philharmonic, but he embraced more American music during the 17 years he was music director of the NBC Symphony (1937-1954). A meeting with Samuel Barber, who came to Italy to visit Toscanini (where the conductor spent his summers until World War II began in Europe in 1939), led to Toscanini premiering Barber's "Adagio for Strings" and "Essay for Orchestra" with the NBC Symphony. Toscanini eventually made a "studio" recording of "Adagio" and it remains a definitive version of this wonderfully moving work for string orchestra.

Toscanini had long been encouraged to conduct the major orchestral works of George Gershwin, but it wasn't until 1942 that Toscanini finally conducted "Rhapsody in Blue" in a broadcast concert that featured Earl Wild as pianist and Benny Goodman as clarinetist. Toscanini also conducted broadcast performances of "Concerto in F" (with Oscar Levant as the pianist) and "An American in Paris." This led to a 1945 studio recording of the symphonic poem that commemorated Gershwin's visit to Paris in 1928. Toscanini took a much different approach to the music, not really because he didn't understand or appreciate American jazz but because he saw the work more in its symphonic structure.

In 1945, Toscanini also made a studio recording of Ferde Grofe's "Grand Canyon Suite," under the supervision of the composer.
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This is American music as only Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra could play it. The sound is not up to modern standards (of course) but is quite acceptable and enjoyable. Modern noise removal techniques have rescued many older recordings and brought them back to "the land of the living."
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The maestro at his finest!
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