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Toscanini conducts Schubert & Mendelssohn,
This review is from: Schubert: Symphonies Nos. 5, 8 & 9 / Mendelssohn: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 5 (Audio CD)
There's no question that Toscanini brought out nuances in the music of Franz Schubert and Felix Mendelssohn that other conductors have missed. This compilation is a clear, definitive demonstration of Toscanini's mastery of this music.
One of the bonuses of these digitally-remastered versions of the historic RCA Victor recordings is a clarity seldom heard in the peformances before. Too often these recordings suffered from either shrillness or artificial stereo enhancements. BMG has gone back to the original sources, the magnetic tapes, and carefully mastered them for optimal sound.
The performances are consistently outstanding. Schubert's fifth symphony is a light, lyrical work that is absolutely delightful in Toscanini's hands. It uses a fairly small orchestra and was recorded in Carnegie Hall on March 17, 1953, when RCA was achieving great results with its single-microphone "New Orthophonic" process.
The eighth symphony was recorded in Studio 8-H on March 12 and June 2, 1950, the final year that the NBC Symphony Orchestra performed there. Without a studio audience present, the studio had remarkably good sound and the RCA engineers achieved wonderful results, as this recording demonstrates. The performance is absolutely awesome, particularly in the almost eerie second movement. Toscanini clearly shows that Schubert achieved much in the two movements he completed before abandoning the symphony during its third movement.
The performances of Schubert's ninth symphony by Toscanini were generally exceptional. I've long admired the November 16, 1941, recording with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the February 9, 1953, recording with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Toscanini maintains great intensity and excitement throughout the piece, clearly showing how Schubert was looking ahead to the development on romanticism.
Mendelssohn's fourth symphony, which the composer subtitled "Italian," is an absolute delight. It has seldom been played with such beauty, serenity, and dexterity as by the NBC Symphony in this February 1954 recording, one of the last great performances by the orchestra under Toscanini.
The fifth symphony, which celebrates the Reformation, is a work of great dignity and power. Toscanini skillfully grasped the drama of the music and builds the famous "A Mighty Fortress" chorale in an overwhelming manner. This Carnegie Hall recording from December 13, 1953, is one of Toscanini's best.