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Toscanini Conducts Beethoven: Complete Symphonies & Selected Overtures (From the Legendary October-December 1939 Cycle)

Box Set

4.5 out of 5 stars 8 ratings

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Audio CD, Box set, July 17, 2007
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

This box set from Music and Arts of the Complete Symphonies and Selected Overtures of Ludwig van Beethoven is of great historical significance, partly because it was one of the few occasions when Arturo Toscanini recorded the entire cycle, but more importantly because it marked his break with Europe at the beginning of World War II. Recorded in autumn 1939 with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, these are volatile interpretations, taken for the most part at lightning-fast tempos and delivered with a ferocity that suggests Toscanini's public anger over the state of the world, if not his personal anguish over his separation from Italy. While the performances were well-recorded and have been remarkably restored through the label's "revolutionary harmonic balancing process," they are a little hard to take if you listen to more than one disc at a sitting, mostly because Toscanini's versions are intense, forceful, and often severe, and the NBC Symphony Orchestra is whipped into a frenzy for most of the time. There is little breathing room in the allegros and scherzos, and in some cases the slow movements are pressed harder than they should be, so the music's elegance, warmth, and beauty barely come through. Toscanini's rage over the war was justified, but his driven and indignant versions of Beethoven's symphonies and overtures are of another era, when authoritarian conducting could lead to indulgences that distorted the music. Some will find these performances too unstable and volcanic to be truly enjoyable, and the set will serve better as a document of a troubled period in Toscanini's career than as a collection of Beethoven's works for our own time. Despite the good cleaning of the sound, dynamic levels are variable and some tracks still have considerable surface noise. ~ Blair Sanderson, Rovi

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"In general, the early NBC records are the best" --Classicalnotes,net

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- Joachim Wagner -
5.0 out of 5 stars Odyssee der Ueberspielungen
Reviewed in Germany on September 28, 2010
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Reviewed in Japan on December 23, 2007
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