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More Details for IPCD 1009-2 Toscanini Missa Solemnis 1935
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Reviews for IPCD 1011-2

Beethoven: Missa Solemnis

BEETHOVEN MISSA SOLEMNIS, op. 123 (November 2014 remastering)  Arturo Toscanini, cond; Elisabeth Rethberg (sop); Marion Telva (cont); Giovanni Martinelli (ten); Ezio Pinza (bass); Schola Cantorum Ch; New York PSO  IMMORTAL PERFORMANCES 1011-2, mono (2 CDs: 125:28) Live: Carnegie Hall, 4/28/1935 & Verdi Simon Boccanegra, act I scene 1 (Live: Met, 2/16/1935) and interviews with Rethberg and Martinelli

Colin Clarke
FANFARE magazine
July August 2015

Toscanini’s 1935 Philharmonic Missa Solemnis on Immortal Performances was reviewed by Mortimer Frank in 2011 (Fanfare 34:6) and by Boyd Pomeroy in the same issue. Pomeroy’s review details Toscanini’s relationship with this piece in detail, and subsequent performances that have made it to disc. In October that year, Richard Caniell remastered this performance, then again in 2013, then finally in November 2014, the present issue, his fourth and one which he believes is “the ultimate remaster” of a performance that, of all Toscanini’s accounts of this work, is the slowest and in many ways the most convincing. It is a remarkable performance. It is this new version that supersedes all previous incarnations of this great performance. Focus is of vital importance in what has occurred: details emerge, also because of lesser surface noise. The tone is less shrill, also. But one must remember that whatever happens, the source of this is an off-the-air recording in which, for example, the distancing of the soloists can vary remarkably. Previous releases on other labels (Toscanini Society, Dante Lys) can effectively be discounted. Caniell has replaced clipped beats and vowels that were due to the excision of a number of loud noises by hand in the original. There were two versions of the opening to the Credo in the original tapes, it would appear, and Caniell has managed to reinstate what actually happened (the first one replaced the original opening to the Credo with an identical phrase that takes place later in the movement). Pitch lapses have been corrected (most obviously perhaps at the end of the Hosanna)

The sound has opened out significantly, although this is less noticeable in the opening movement (I did an A/B comparison with two players, as Caniell suggests) but becomes very evident as the performance progresses, and is very clear in the Gloria. The soloists, too, have more body to their voices. The Agnus Dei is heard in an entirely new remastering so that a metallic edge has been removed, and very effectively. True, not everything can be eradicated (there is some swish, for example, at the opening of the Sanctus), and it is probably only on an A/B comparison that one might admit that it is better, but this remains a masterly achievement in the world of historical recordings. (The November 2014 remastering is generously dedicated to the memory of writer John Steane, who provides notes for both the Missa and the filler).

Immortal Performance’s box lists Martinelli first, not the soprano Rethberg. The notes explain that it is possibly the presence of Martinelli that will act as primary interest for the record collector, but for those of us who, like Toscanini did, revere Rethberg, perhaps a simple listing by voice-type might have been in order. Rethberg shines (as was her wont), and while Martinelli and the other soloists are certainly top rank, it is she that is the stand-out. One can hear the dark quality of Pinza’s bass excellently in the new remaster, also. Marion Telva is an imposing contralto presence (as her “Et incarnates entry attests). The well-drilled chorus do everything they can to rise to Beethoven’s super-human demands (those poor sopranos), but it is Toscanini’s vision that shines through the years. Caniell likens this reading to a cathedral in sound, and that element is indeed very audible, whichever transfer one uses.

Do not let the sonic imperfections, such as they remain, put you off. This is a wonderful account and Caniell deserves a knighthood (can they get them in Canada?) for his work. (The November 2014 remastering is generously dedicated to the memory of writer John Steane, who provides notes for both the Missa and the filler).

That filler is the first scene of the first act of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra, with Rethberg as Amelia, Martinelli as Gabriele and Pinza as Fiesco. Another singer not included in the Beethoven line-up, Lawrence Tibbett, completes the roster as Boccanegra himself. The Met orchestra is conducted by Ettore Panizza, a conductor who had worked closely with Toscanini at La Scala. Rethberg’s “Come in quest’ora bruna” is a wonder of legato; Martinelli has clarion tones in “Partiam, ch’ei to scorga”. But it is to the irresistable Missa that we are called, and must go. A vitally important (re-)release, one which should sit on one’s shelves alongside the Toscanini RCA performance and, I would suggest, the 1940 NBC Carnegie Hall account with Björling, Milanov, Castagna and Kipnis.

Beethoven: Missa Solemnis

BEETHOVEN MISSA SOLEMNIS, op. 123 (November 2014 remastering)  Arturo Toscanini, cond; Elisabeth Rethberg (sop); Marion Telva (cont); Giovanni Martinelli (ten); Ezio Pinza (bass); Schola Cantorum Ch; New York PSO  IMMORTAL PERFORMANCES 1011-2, mono (2 CDs: 125:28) Live: Carnegie Hall, 4/28/1935 & Verdi Simon Boccanegra, act I scene 1 (Live: Met, 2/16/1935) and interviews with Rethberg and Martinelli

Ken Meltzer
FANFARE magazine
July August 2015

In an essay accompanying this reissue of two legendary performances, the great music critic John Steane, to whom the release is dedicated in memoriam, comments: “Verdi is perhaps an odd choice of running-mate for Beethoven, and no obvious connection suggests itself between the Missa Solemnis and Simon Boccanegra.” I’ll suggest a connection, and perhaps a significant one in the context of the Missa solemnis performance under review. In 1881, Verdi completed his revised version of Boccanegra. Less than a decade earlier, Verdi composed his great Manzoni Requiem. When Verdi created the Requiem, and Beethoven the Missa solemnis, both were at the height of their powers, and able to call upon a lifetime of experience and accomplishments. I think it is also clear that while both the Requiem and Missa solemnis are liturgical concert pieces (scored for soloists, chorus, and orchestra), their creators viewed them as intensely human dramas, no less so than Verdi’s many operas, or Beethoven’s only work for the lyric theater, Fidelio. Again, this comparison is perhaps of relevance when encountering the 1935 broadcast performance of the Missa with the New York Philharmonic and Toscanini. To my ears, Toscanini strongly subscribed to, and illuminated the human drama in both the Beethoven Missa solemnis and Verdi Requiem. And I believe that Toscanini’s earlier performance recordings of both works, not the more well-known RCA issues, best convey that element.

Crucial to this human, dramatic approach to the Missa solemnis is Toscanini’s choice of far broader tempos than in the 1953 RCA issue. “Broad” does not equate with slow, however. As expected with Toscanini, there is never a lapse of momentum in the 1935 Missa, and the fleeter moments, such as the concluding Presto of the Gloria, are all the more thrilling, given the relative expansiveness of the music preceding it. The broader tempos provide the legendary quartet of vocal soloists (Rethberg, Telva, Martinelli, and Pinza), all veteran opera performers, a canvas upon which to express the myriad of emotions Beethoven invests in the score. Toscanini likewise coaxes the New York Philharmonic and Chorus of the Schola Cantorum to relish the notes and texts, and in the most glowing manner imaginable. This performance of the Missa solemnis, perhaps above any other, makes me regret all the more that Beethoven never fulfilled an ambition to create an operatic version of Goethe’s Faust. The Missa solemnis held a special place in Beethoven’s heart, inspiring him to inscribe at the top of the score: “From the Heart—May it Return to the Heart.” It is clear that all the performers in this 1935 broadcast, inspired by Toscanini’s leadership, share a commitment and affection for Beethoven’s choral masterpiece. It is certainly the most eloquent and powerful rendition of this unique work I have ever heard (and that takes into consideration not only Toscanini’s 1953 RCA recording, but his 1939 BBC and 1940 NBC Symphony performances as well).

Imagine if this legendary performance had been preserved in the same audio quality as Toscanini’s contemporaneous New York Philharmonic studio recordings. Instead, the only known source of the concert recording, issued by various labels, is a cramped, muddy, and distorted off-the-air transcription. In 2011, Immortal Performances issued Richard Caniell’s restoration of this 1935 Toscanini Missa solemnis. Thanks to Mr. Caniell’s expert, detailed, and unflagging work, listeners were finally able to appreciate the majesty of this Missa solemnis, and its unique place among Toscanini’s interpretations of the piece. In fact, I wrote the entirety of my review up to this point after listening only to the 2011 restoration. I then turned to Richard Caniell’s latest restoration of the 1935 Missa, completed in November, 2014, and issued as IPCD 1011-2. It is a stunning achievement. A good portion of the sonic veil remaining on the 2011 restoration has been lifted. Balance between soloists, chorus, and orchestra is vastly improved (those who purchased earlier Immortal Performances issues of this Missa solemnis may acquire the new set for a nominal fee). Is the 2014 restoration, at long last, the sonic equal of studio recordings of the period? No. But it is now fine enough that the recording may be recommended to all who love the Missa solemnis, and not just to those who are tolerant of the sonic challenges presented by historic recordings. Beautiful essays by John Steane and Mr. Caniell, lively on-air interviews with Elisabeth Rethberg and Giovanni Martinelli, and a portion of a 1935 Met broadcast of Simon Boccanegra (aided by minimal patching of a 1939 broadcast), featuring three of the Missa soloists, add to the pleasure of this invaluable release. Once again, Richard Caniell and Immortal Performances have proven themselves singular advocates for legendary interpretations of great music.

Review of the old 2011 edition of Missa Solemnis

Arturo Toscanini

Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York

28 April 1935

Elisabeth Rethberg, Marion Telva (sop); Giovanni Martinelli (ten); Ezio Pinza (bs); Schola Cantorum Choir

Live - Carnegie Hall


VERDI Simon Boccanegra: Act I, Scene 1 complete

Live: Metropolitan Opera 16 February 1935

Rethberg, Martinelli, Pinza, Tibbett

IMMORTAL PERFORMANCES 1011-2, mono (2 CDs: 125:28)

Boyd Pomeroy
FANFARE magazine,
July / August 2011

This is the earliest of five preserved Toscanini versions of the Missa Solemnis, the others being BBC 1939 (BBC Legends), NBC 1940 (Music & Arts), and two from NBC in 1953 (the familiar RCA recording, and a contemporaneous live version recently issued on Pristine). Working from a composite of old Toscanini Society discs and a tape from the collection of RCA recording engineer Richard Gardner, Richard Caniell’s painstaking restoration has performed miracles with the notoriously recalcitrant source material (most recently encountered on a CD from Archipel, for practical purposes unlistenable). In his booklet notes, Caniell really is too modest in stating that “it is still not as good as I wished. It has, I hope, been improved.” (!) In terms of pitch stability, cleaned-up distortion, and opened-up dynamic range, we can now appreciate the qualities of this performance as never before. He has wisely left a residue of background acetate noise, removal of which would have sacrificed valuable overtones of the soloists and chorus.

The performance is notable for its spacious breadth and unhurried rhythmic solidity. Its individual character, compared to other Toscanini versions, can be gauged by a comparison of timings for the Kyrie: 11:25 in 1935, against 10:14 for the BBC in 1939, and 9:06 in the 1953 RCA version. For perspective, Toscanini in 1935 is very close to Levine (VPO/DG, 1991) and Karajan (Philharmonia/Vienna, 1958/Testament, and BPO/DG, 1966). The slowest I know is Kleiber/Stockholm, 1948 (Music & Arts) at 12:25; the speed record is held by Zinman/Zürich Tonhalle, 2001 (Arte Nova) at a mere 7:46! The dark, burnished mahogany sound of the New York Philharmonic at this time presents a striking contrast with the bright, brassy mix heard in the NBC versions (especially 1940). If the later performances might sometimes be thought to score higher for sheer excitement, the 1935 consistently impresses through its emphasis on purely musical virtues—e.g., in taking more time for those astounding chromatic harmonic shifts in parts of the Gloria and Credo to really register. In the Benedictus, the breadth of approach is matched by solo violin and woodwind playing of exceptional purity; at the other extreme, the Presto B-Flat-Major orchestral interlude in the Dona Nobis Pacem has thrilling power and trenchancy.

The soloists are exceptionally distinctive: Rethberg’s unflagging instrumental clarity and tonal beauty; Martinelli’s trademark lean timbre and concentration of tone; Pinza’s characteristic velvet agility, rock-solid rhythm and intonation. Contralto Marion Telva is also flawless, if less individual than the other three. Given their operatic pedigree, the quartet’s ensemble work is mightily impressive, whether in the fearsome contrapuntal tangles of the “Et vitam venturi” and “Cum sancto spiritu” or the dark intensity of the Agnus Dei. In the Benedictus, their blended technical discipline serves a rare exaltation of expression (though it comes as a slight surprise when Rethberg declines the optional high C in the reprise). The chorus members throw themselves into their task with unsparing responsiveness to Toscanini’s exacting demands (those cruel soprano B-Flats!).

As a substantial bonus we have the beginning of act I from the famous 1935 Met production of Simon Boccanegra, showing three of the four soloists from the Missa in their more familiar habitat of the opera house. Although the same principals and conductor are preserved in better sound in the 1939 revival of the production, they were in (even) finer voice four years earlier. So far as I know, the 1935 performance has never been available complete, but the new release nicely complements Myto’s inclusion of the final scene from act I as bonus material for its edition of the 1939 revival. The sound is very limited, but good enough to convey the quality of the singing and conducting (Panizza at his very considerable best). There is a small editing mistake with the redundant repetition of the Amelia/Doge interchange “Non sono una Grimaldi! ... Oh ciel ... chi sei?” at 1:38 into track 8.

As an additional “bonus to the bonus” we have interviews with the soprano and tenor, each sharing some reminiscences of Toscanini. They present quite a contrast, Rethberg coming across as formal and scripted, with punctiliously correct grammar in her heavily accented English; Martinelli engagingly jocular and waggish.

Documentation is superb as usual from this label, with copious notes from John Steane and Caniell himself. Together with their 1938 NBC Verdi Requiem, reviewed elsewhere in this issue, this is one of the most important Toscanini releases for a long time. A mandatory purchase.

PLEASE NOTE: With respect to the error noted by Mr. Pomeroy, Immortal Performances has corrected it in the newest remasters.

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