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Ludwig van Beethoven: The 9 Symphonies - Arturo Toscanini / NBC Symphony Orchestra Box set

4.4 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Beethoven: Symphonies 1-9
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Audio CD, Box set, November 24, 2003
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Disc 3
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Disc 4
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Product Details

  • Performer: Ludwig van Beethoven (Composer), Arturo Toscanini (Conductor), NBC Symphony Orchestra
  • Audio CD (November 24, 2003)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 5
  • Format: Box set
  • 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: Alliance
  • Run Time: 321 minutes
  • ASIN: B0000CNTLU
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #142,033 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Hank Drake VINE VOICE on November 24, 2005
Format: Audio CD
RCA/BMG have reissued these recordings numerous times since their initial LP release. To the best of my knowledge, they've never been out of print. The sound on various incarnations has varied, from the clean but compressed mono originals, fake stereo reissues in the 1960s, to at least four CD issues. In 1997, RCA totally reorganized and inventoried its massive vaults, which had been in disarray for decades. As a result, many original sources which had been declared "lost" were now "found." This new remastering is strikingly improved sonically over all earlier issues. Utilizing the best technology now available, RCA has also done the right thing by hiring a musician - conductor Ed Houser - rather than whiz-bang technicians to supervise the remastering. The NBC Symphony Orchestra now sounds better than ever before, with smoother strings, fuller winds, increased dynamic range, and less blotting out during fortissimos.

Perhaps no conductor of the 20th Century has been as misunderstood as Arturo Toscanini, as evidenced by the critical backlash with which he was assailed in the years following his death. That criticism was partly in reaction to the equally unbalanced adulation heaped upon him during his lifetime. I remember once mentioning to an acquaintance my admiration for Toscanini's Beethoven and Brahms, and he shot back, "He conducts everything too fast!" In fact, in comparison with other recordings and broadcasts of his era, Toscanini's conducting was not generally faster than average. In relation to TODAY'S phlegmatic tempos, however, Toscanini's pacing is definitely brisk. But what most people are hearing as fast is, in fact, Toscanini's characteristic rhythmic vitality and, occasionally, drive, which brings the faster movements to sparkling life.
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Format: Audio CD
The controversey about Toscanini just will not go away, nor is it likely to abate anytime soon. Contemporary music critics ran out of superlatives in their reviews of Toscanini's performances, and found his style so convincing and powerful they soon referred to him as THE Maestro, as if there were no others. Indeed, Toscanini had few peers during his long, outstanding career. This is somewhat harder to discern for modern listeners, who have been brought up listening to two generations of conductors who have mostly all been heavily influenced by Toscanini and the revolution in interpretation and performance he wrought.
Two myths about Toscaninini persist: the first, by his supporters, that he was a literally faithful interpreter; the second, by his critics, that he conducted everything too fast.
Neither of these myths is exactly true, but there is little point in refuting them in detail here.
The current take on Toscanini is that his recorded legacy does not support his reputation, since it consists mostly of recordings from when the maestro was already well into his 70's and 80's and had lost his creative spark. Peter Guttmann notes that by this time, Toscanini tended to regard all music as an abstraction and tended to seek maximum efficiency in performance, rather than inspired interpretaion. Very well, if that is so, it works remarkable WONDERS on Beethoven.
The first remarkable quality of any Toscanini performance is its rythymic DRIVE. This led his critics to charge that Toscanini took things too fast. What he really did was to seek what he considered to be a CORRECT tempo in every movement, one which he could inflect or adjust subtly as needed, rather than alter radically, as many other conductors did, and do to this day.
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Format: Audio CD
I grew up on these performances, and it's difficult for me to hear other attempts without the cold wind of criticism blowing. Nevertheless, as an adult, I've listened to them again and again in the context of other recordings and have come to something more reasonable than pure adulation. First, the sound is definitely not as good as even the most ordinary recordings of today. That's a technical matter solely. If, and it's a mighty big if, you are capable of listening beyond the sound to the music, then there simply aren't other Beethoven symphony performances that are in the same league as these. The NBC Symphony Orchestra was the most astonishing virtuoso orchestra ever assembled. If you doubt that at all, just listen to them release a sound. Many orchestras these days (though not then) can make a unified attack, but a unified release is something you just don't hear. Balances are a constant miracle as the music progresses. Toscanini was NOT a slave to the score (compare score and recording of the 9th, for example, where Toscanini reorchestrated whole sections of the last movement in order to get a greater clarity of sound (he did the same in his performances of Debussy's La Mer), and his much touted speed is many times actually a little slower than that of other conductors--it just sounds faster because it has such astonishing clarity. One can easily disagree with Toscanini's late-in-life, slam-bang approach to most music (his Brahms leaves me cold, for example) but in these overplayed and over-recorded Beethoven symphonies, there are few conductors that approach Toscanini, and none that match him. If you are serious about these compositions, this is a set that bears up under repeated scrutiny. Oh heck, I'll give it ten stars.
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