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Comment: three-disc set with 15-page booklet (in English, German & French); jewel case is in excellent condition; discs show light superficial surface wear & come guaranteed to play flawlessly; because we care that your order arrives in the condition stated, we have additionally sealed the case in a padded plastic sleeve for added protection during shipment (that can easily be removed upon receipt of your order)
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Brahms: The Four Symphonies / Toscanini, Philharmonia Orchestra Box set, Original recording reissued, Live

4.2 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Box set, Original recording reissued, March 10, 2000
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Symphonies n°1 op.68, n°2 op.73, n°3 op.90, n°4 op.98 - Variations sur un thème de Haydn, op.56a - Ouverture tragique, op.81 / Philharmonia Orchestra, dir. Arturo Toscanini

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Testament's catalog is full of gems, few as important as this set of Toscanini's legendary 1952 Philharmonia Brahms concerts. Available in various wretched-sounding pirate editions, this is the first "official" release, made from EMI's original concert tapes but unpublished because of contractual conflicts. Toscanini's Brahms is familiar from his contemporaneous RCA recordings with his NBC Symphony. But these are quite different from the driven and unyielding RCAs, made more unrelenting by dry, airless engineering. With the Philharmonia, we get a warmer, more lyrical Brahms, though no less intense. The 85-year-old conductor is rhythmically less rigid and his phrasing more flexible. Even the Third Symphony, never a comfortable fit for Toscanini, comes off well, while the more lyrical Second is as poetic as it is intense. But there isn't a weak performance on this set, and the quicksilver Variations rival Toscanini's classic 1936 recording with the New York Philharmonic. Throughout, his often episodic approach in the late RCA Brahms recordings is replaced by an ebb and flow that brings the music to life.

The Philharmonia is magnificent under Toscanini's baton, playing with warmth and imbuing brief solo turns with imagination. Trombone fluffs in the First's finale and firecrackers exploding on the roof in the Fourth don't dim enjoyment. Dennis Brain's golden tone and distinctive sound make his horn solos a joy to hear. The engineering is better than we might expect from 1952 concert recordings--solid, well-detailed monophonic sound. This set is a must-have, and not just for Toscanini idolaters. --Dan Davis

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Applause
  2. British National Anthem
  3. Tragic Overture, Op.81
  4. I. Un Poco Sustenuto - Allegro
  5. II. Andante Sostenuto
  6. III. Un Poco Allegretto E Grazioso
  7. IV. Adagio-Piu Andante-Allegro Non Troppo, Ma Con Brio

Disc: 2

  1. I. Allegro Non Troppo
  2. II. Adagio Non Troppo
  3. III. Allegretto Grazioso (Quasi Andantino-Presto, Ma Non Assai)
  4. IV. Allegro Con Spirito
  5. British National Anthem
  6. Chorale (St. Antoni)
  7. I. Poco Piu Animato
  8. II. Piu Vivace
  9. III. Con Moto
  10. IV. Andante Con Moto
  11. V. Vivace
  12. VI. Vivace
  13. VII. Grazioso
  14. VIII. Presto Non Troppo
  15. Finale

Disc: 3

  1. I. Allegro Con Brio-Un Poco Sostenuto-Tempo I
  2. II. Andante
  3. III. Poco Allegretto
  4. IV. Allegro-Un Poco Sostenuto
  5. I. Allegro Non Troppo
  6. II. Andante Moderato
  7. III. Allegro Giocoso-Poco Meno Presto
  8. IV. Allegro Energico E Passionato-Piu Allegro


Product Details

  • Orchestra: Philharmonia Orchestra
  • Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
  • Composer: Johannes Brahms
  • Audio CD (March 10, 2000)
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Box set, Original recording reissued, Live
  • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
  • Label: Testament
  • ASIN: B00003OO0T
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #200,702 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Having owned a "pirated" version of this set some 26 years ago, I kind of liked the performances though the sound was horrible (rather like Everest's mangled sound of the Furtwangler La Scala "Ring" cycle), but the mixed customer reviews of this set--plus the reminders of flaws in the performances--made me hold off buying this "official" release for some time.
I can see where at least one person felt the Philharmonia performances were not as exciting as the NBC Symphony ones. The first concert (9/29/52) was not miked properly, with the result that the "Tragic Overture" and first two symphonies are a little tubby, with over-resonance on the bottom and dullness on the top. This, however, can be rectified by decreasing bass and increasing treble. That done, this version of the First Symphony is phrased very much like the legendary Guido Cantelli recording of May 1953--until the last movement, where Toscanini's more forward impetus does not allow for quite as much rubato lingering. This version of the second is also very good, though I still prefer the Munch/Boston Symphony recording.
In the second concert, however (10/1/52), both Toscanini and the Philharmonia reach heights undreamed-of with the NBC Symphony. This version of the "Haydn Variations" is almost as beautiful as the famed 1936 New York Philharmonic account, relaxed, spacious and warm, while these versions of the Third and Fourth Symphonies are the best I have EVER heard. In the first movement of the Third, for instance, Toscanini achieves one of his "miracle" effects, in that the orchestra as a totality "breathes" over long phrases in long, sweeping arches of sound, almost as if the music thus produced has taken wing and lifted off.
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I am greatfull to Testament for releasing this recording.Although I was never fortunate to hear the great man coduct in person being an Australian and young, I have always loved his recordings even though he has come to me via the NBC symphony orchestra through hard edged sound emerging from strangulated acoustics, his performances have been so precise and so exciting as to transcend these limitations. The difference between the sound quality of the NBC recordings and this account with the Philharmonia is astonishing.I am confident that this would have been what Toscanini's orchestra would have sounded like.I have not heard the Brahms symphonies sound better under anybody and the sound of Dennis Brains horn in the first and third symphonies is magic.With its few imperfections this is indeed a tribute not only to Toscanini and a must for all Tosacanini collectors ,but also a tribute to Walter Legge who recorded him.One can only wish that Walter Legge had recorded his other performances. How much has been lost to us that he didn't.
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Regardless of what some of the other reviewers say, I believe that this is the greatest single Brahms set and one of the finest records that Toscanini ever made. This set shows the way that Toscanini could work his magic, much better than in the NBC set. I agree that his efforts were often rewarded with sub-par Studio 8H sound, but Legge and Douglas Larter did a fine job here, given the live recording, the less than ideal location, and the early 50s mono recording capabilities. The Philharmonia's work, except for the fluffed trombone in Symphony Nol 1 (a ringer, not a regular Philharmonia player) is terrific, particularly the winds and brass (trombones excepted). Dennis Brain is fabulous--even better than with Cantelli in the Brahms 1st. BUY THIS ONE NOW, ALONG WITH SOME OF THE OTHER TESTAMENT REISSUES, SUCH AS THE HOLLYWOOD QUARTET'S LATE BEETHOVEN.
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Let me say up front that I like and admire Toscanini. I greatly enjoy his recordings of the Beethoven symphonies (especially the third, seventh and ninth), Verdi Requiem, and various overtures including that greatest of all versions of the William Tell. Fortunately I was also able to obtain this Testament set of Brahms symphonies pretty cheap. If anyone out there, who is not a Toscanini fanatic, is considering buying these at full price - my advice is don't - you'll probably regret it. While the Fourth symphony is truly a great performance it is badly marred in the fourth movement by those loud firecrackers going off. Those who have complained that it is equivalent to the sound of a loud bang are far closer to the truth than those ripping them for their appraisal. The sound of these fire crackers in relation to the rest of the orchestra is equivalent to a loud and forceful quick strike on a snare drum. They occur intermittently throughout the middle portion of the fourth movement. The third symphony is also marred by excessive coughing during the performance. With a live performance, allowances should be made for the occasional cough. But the amount of coughing is excessive to the degree that even my wife noticed it while working on her computer in an adjoining room. If someone who is not really interested in listening to the music notices the excessive coughing from an open adjacent room while their attention is centered elsewhere then you should take this into consideration before purchasing. Regarding the first symphony, I can overlook the trombone flub in the fourth movement, but overall I did not feel that this was a truly great performance. in addition, the recorded sound for the first is inferior to that of the third and fourth.Read more ›
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