Orchestral Show Pieces (2 CD's) - Music by Brahms, Muscorgsky - Ravel, Sibelius, Swetana, Strauss & Tchaikovsky.
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
|2. The Gnome|
|4. The Old Castle|
|9. Ballet Of The Unhatched Chicks|
|10. Samuel Goldberg And Schmuyle|
See all 24 tracks on this disc
|1. Chorale St. Antoni: Andante|
|2. Variation I: Poco Piu Animato|
|3. Variation II: Piu Vivace|
|4. Variation III: Con Moto|
|5. Variation IV: Andante Con Moto|
|6. Variation V: Vivace|
|7. Variation VI: Vivace|
|8. Variation VII: Grazioso|
|9. Variation VIII: Presto Non Troppo|
|10. Finale: Andante|
See all 24 tracks on this disc
Calling this volume of the RCA Toscanini series Orchestral Showpieces risks creating the impression that it is a set of barnstorming spectaculars often reserved for encores, which demand superb sound quality if they are to have the required effect. Sound which an archive release like this simply cannot deliver, though these remastered mono NBC Symphony Orchestra recordings from 1950-53 certainly fair very well in the strings and woodwinds, the brass and cymbals having a tendency to harshness in louder passages. Showpieces or not, the recordings are certainly significant. Mussorgsky's Pictures At An Exhibition, (orchestrated by Ravel--with revisions by Toscanini) offers a solidly architectural "Great Gate Of Kiev". Richard Strauss's, Death and Transfiguration and Till Elenspiegel have a comparable musical drama to that which Toscanini brought to his Wagner recordings. Brahms's Haydn Variations have real weight and formal power, while the Hungarian Dances have a concentrated melody as well as superior sound. Equally, Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite glitters with a lightness of touch, contrasting with Toscanini's ceremonial, majestic reading of Sibelius's Finlandia. The anthology concludes with "The Moldau" from Smetana's Má Vlast, a colourful and aptly fluid interpretation. Without the unifying subject of previous volumes in the same series, Orchestral Showpieces is akin to an extended concert, an opportunity to enjoy a diverse programme of immense musical artistry, lovingly presented by one of the 20th century's great conductors. Beautifully presented, these classic recordings make a most welcome return to the catalogue. --Gary S. Dalkin
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Maurice Ravel's orchestration of Modeste Mussorgsky's piano pieces "Pictures at an Exhibition" was one of Toscanini's personal favorites. He once said that the Ravel orchestration was one of the greatest examples of the art of orchestration. His 1953 "studio" recording of the fascinating pieces was made in Carnegie Hall and was a leading example of RCA Victor's "New Orthophonic" high fidelity process, using a single full range microphone that was suspended above Toscanini's head. These are definitive performances with exceptional sound.
Richard Strauss' "Death and Transfiguration" has seldom been played with more power than in this recording by Toscanini and the outstanding NBC Symphony Orchestra. The dramatic sections are played with such intensity that it almost overwhelms the listener. Toscanini's devotion to the music was such that he seemed to give a loud, audible sigh near the end of the piece and this was captured in the recording.
Toscanini fully appreciated Strauss' "Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks" as he captured the mischievous nature of the imp, leading to his ultimately tragic end, while he continued to laugh and make fun of everyone. The performance is thoroughly delightful and enjoyable.
Toscanini found much to treasure in Brahms' lush "Variations on a Theme of Haydn." He first recorded this wonderful work with the New York Philharmonic. With the NBC Symphony Orchestra, he had the advantage of much better sound, due to advances in recording technology. Although the recording was made in NBC Studio 8-H, during a broadcast concert, the results were top-notch. All of the variations are treated with great care and precision, resulting in superlative performances by the NBC musicians.
The Maestro excelled in all of the other works in this compilation. He chose four of the orchestrated "Hungarian Dances" of Johannes Brahms and gave them really brilliant performances. The sound is true high fidelity and the music is played with fervor.
Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite" was rarely played with such precision and enthusiasm." This is very familiar music that is given a "new look" and wonderfully played.
Sibelius' "Finlandia" is dark and powerful, leading to an ultimately triumphal climax. Toscanini conducted other works of Sibelius, primarily early with the NBC Symphony, and only the second symphony and "Pohjola's Daughter," both dating from 1940, were commercially issued.
Finally, there is the brilliant 1950 recording (in NBC Studio 8-H) of Smetana's "The Moldau," still one of the greatest recordings ever made of the work and perhaps one of Toscanini's "top ten" performances. Once you've heard this performance you will seldom be satisfied with other performances; the only possible exception may by the wonderful complete Teldec recording by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra of all six of the symphonic poems that make up Smetana's "My Country" series.
There is one caveat: The huge timpani roll before the coda of Finlandia is missing in this transfer. It was also missing from the original RCA CD transfer. The only editions of this recording that are complete with timp roll are the original LM-1834 RCA Red Seal LP release from the mid-50s, and a wonderful 1/2 track open-reel tape issued around the same time. Having a superb CD transfer of that tape makes listening to this edition impossible.................where did the drums go? Listeners should be aware that the original releases had the drums, so you'll just have to imagine the sound. Toscanini makes an awesome thing of it and it's too bad that listeners to this CD can't hear it.
At times the results are a breakthrough, and at the very least they offer a marked improvement. CD 1 begins with the version of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition that young music lovers in the postwar era first heard. It's still very fine, even though we now have dozens of exciting, well recorded modern accounts. Rather to my surprise, the Maestro isn't driving the pace, and his phrasing is actually yielding rather than stiff and overly disciplined. Stereotypes don't always hold, fortunately. The sonics form 1953 in Carnegie Hall have come up very well in the new remastering; there are no obvious defects, not even the old curse of hard edges in the treble region. The big brass chords in The Great Gate of Kiev burn too brightly, however, and there's an inescapable thinness in orchestral tuttis. "Pictures" contains few of those, however, before the big finale.
before 1963 or so we in America didn't get to hear many German recordings, and it came as a revelation how Richard Strauss was played by Kempe, Karajan, and Furtwangler, among others. I remember Toscanini's Death and Transfiguration as too taut and impatient. Actually, it's neither. This is a very impressive performance, the only problem being that the sound, taken form a live broadcast, doesn't come up resplendent. It's a bit distant and thin, yet the new remastering brings a big improvement. Things improve in a romping studio reading of Till Eulenspiegel, which has more life sonically. both Strauss recordings were famous in their day and retain almost all of their luster.
RCA calls this twofer "Orchestral Showpieces," but that's a stretch for Brahms's Haydn Variations, which opens CD 2. the sound is all but exemplary in the new remastering, with real fullness in the orchestral sonority. The only defect is some shrillness in high violin lines at loud volume. Toscanini had a great reputation as a Brahmsian, but in hindsight he seems to drive the music to achieve brilliance rather than depth, and that criticism holds true here. His zest is better applied to the marvelous Hungarian Dances that follow, including No. 1, 17 20, and 21. All sound very good if a mite distant. finally we get the most famous Nutcracker Suite in the era before stereo; it must have sold in the millions and was beloved by every baby boomer with musical inclinations. The sound has come up trumps, as the Gramophone loves to say; there's air around the instruments, and the celesta in the Dance of the Sugar Plum fairy could have come form a modern recording. The pacing is a bit impatient throughout, however; luckily, nothing is frantic. Overall, this twofer is one of the better ones, sonically and musically, in RCA's admirable series.
CD2 is equally brilliant-the Haydn Variations are simply perfect, perhaps even more nuanced yet rigorously logical than Szell or Von Karajan, heretofore my favorites. And, while lightweight, one has to adore Toscanini's Tchaikovsky. Just wonderful.