Home Page


The Historic Broadcast Legacy
Newest Releases
Past Releases - Still Available
Toscanini Broadcast Legacy
Russian Legacy
The Dream Ring
What the Music Critics Say
Special Offers
Pricing/Shipping Policy
History of IPRMS

Home Page

font: [-] [+]

Reviews for Toscanini Red Cross Concert 1944 IPCD 1014-2

Reviews for IPCD 1014-2



RED CROSS BENEFIT CONCERT

New York Philharmonic and NBC Symphony Orchestras

Arturo Toscanini


Mortimer Frank - FANFARE, May / June 2012


WAGNER Tannhäuser: Overture. Götterdämmerung: Siegfried’s Rhine Journey. Tristan und Isolde: Prelude & Liebestod. Die Walküre: Ride of the Valkyries. VERDI Rigoletto: act III.2, 3, 4 Hymn of the Nations.3, 4 BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 5 • Arturo Toscanini, cond; New York P-SO; NBC SO; 2Zinka Milanov (s); 2Nan Merriman (ms); 3Jan Peerce (t); 2Leonard Warren (bar); 2Nicola Moscona (bs); 4All-Cities High School Ch & Glee Clubs • IMMORTAL PERFORMANCES 1014 (2 CDs: 135:57) Live: New York 5/25/1944; 5/8/1945


& SOUSA Stars and Stripes Forever. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia raffles off Toscanini’s baton


So far as I can ascertain, the only other source for this wartime fundraising gala (a Grammofono set of some years ago) is no longer available. In terms of overall production this new one certainly surpasses its predecessor. The prizes here are the long-familiar final act of Rigoletto previously issued by RCA, and five Wagner items, both featuring the combined forces of the NBC Symphony and New York Philharmonic in a Madison Square Garden concert that raised $100,000 in War Bond pledges.


Although the Verdi has been available for some time, Richard Caniell’s new mastering here offers greater presence and brightness than RCA’s adequate but comparatively muffled effort, the five vocalists—Leonard Warren, Zinka Milanov, Jan Peerce, Nan Merriman, and Nicola Moscona—all gaining greater impact than in RCA’s edition. But one of the major reasons for acquiring this release is the group of Wagner works that opened the concert. Particularly valuable is the Dresden version of the Overture to Tannhäuser, a more compact and less rambling work than the one with theBacchanale that Wagner composed for Paris and, most significantly, one that Toscanini never recorded in the studio. (A live NBC performance of the Dresden version is available on an RCA DVD, 60336, of the December 4, 1948 telecast from studio 8H.) Then, too, the Dawn and Siegfried’s Rhine Journey from Götterdämmerung (Toscanini’s own arrangement and a specialty in his repertoire) is heard here in a version slightly more flexible than any of his three studio efforts. Another gloss on his studio work is this Prelude to Tristan and Isolde, less hypnotically sustained and intense in 1944 than in Toscanini’s magnificent 1952 RCA recording. By contrast, the Liebestod that follows in 1944 is almost identical to the conductor’s 1952 studio version. A rousing yet tightly controlled Prelude to act III of Die Walküre concluded the Wagner portion of the broadcast.


The second half of the program featured the aforementioned final act of Rigoletto followed by what may be the greatest potboiler in the history of classical music—Verdi’s Hymn of the Nations. This is not meant pejoratively. Composed for the London Exhibition of 1862, it includes the national anthems of England, France, and Italy. Owing to wartime ethos, Toscanini added the anthems of Russia and the United States as a coda to the work. I doubt if anyone has ever sung The Star-Spangled Banner with greater conviction than Jan Peerce did in all three of his performances of the music with Toscanini. More than any other singer I know, he has been the one to inspire me to stand as a reflex catalyzed by the conviction and taste he brings to our national anthem. It is followed almost immediately by a rousing Stars and Stripes Forever, after which the audience of 18,000 erupts in applause.


Included in this release are proceedings during intermission in which New York City’s mayor, Fiorello La Guardia, conducts a raffle for the baton Toscanini used in this concert. He displays refreshing charm and wit as he forces the bidding higher and higher. The second disc is filled out with a broadcast of the Beethoven Fifth Symphony from May 8, 1945 marking the surrender of Germany in World War II. Little, if any, rehearsal seems to have occurred, and no audience is present in studio 8H. Mainly, the performance remains a curio, interesting to hear once, but in no way worthy of Toscanini’s finest surviving efforts with the work (New York Philharmonic, 1933; NBC Symphony, 1939). No repeats are observed in this performance, and the sound, even in an audience-free 8H, is dead and harsh. But for the Wagner works alone or for anyone unfamiliar with Toscanini’s way with the final act of Rigoletto, this set is well worth having. A nice touch in the overall production of this release is a reprint in the insert of Olin Downes’s enthusiastic New York Times review of the Madison Square Garden event.




RED CROSS BENEFIT CONCERT

New York Philharmonic and NBC Symphony Orchestras

Arturo Toscanini


Lynn Bayley - FANFARE, May / June 2012


WAGNER Tannhäuser: Overture. Götterdämmerung: Siegfried’s Rhine Journey. Tristan und Isolde: Prelude & Liebestod. Die Walküre: Ride of the Valkyries. VERDI Rigoletto: act III.2, 3, 4 Hymn of the Nations.3, 4 BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 5 • Arturo Toscanini, cond; New York P-SO; NBC SO; 2Zinka Milanov (s); 2Nan Merriman (ms); 3Jan Peerce (t); 2Leonard Warren (bar); 2Nicola Moscona (bs); 4All-Cities High School Ch & Glee Clubs • IMMORTAL PERFORMANCES 1014 (2 CDs: 135:57) Live: New York 5/25/1944; 5/8/1945


& SOUSA Stars and Stripes Forever. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia raffles off Toscanini’s baton


To the best of my knowledge, this is the first complete issue of the May 1944 Madison Square Garden Concert, including Fiorello LaGuardia’s raffling off of Toscanini’s baton at intermission. (One assumes that Toscanini either brought along a spare or had an alternate baton foisted on him after intermission.) Because there was room on CD 2, Immortal Performances has included the very emotional (for Toscanini) VE Day performance, without an audience, of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, previously issued on Music & Arts 753. Rigoletto act III, of course, is a famous recording also concurrently available in a boxed set, RCA 67893. The combined NBC Symphony/New York Philharmonic-Symphony Wagner performances were previously available on Grammofono 2000 78535/56 and Radio Years 71.2.


In his notes, Caniell says that because the media war between CBS, who owned the rights to the Philharmonic-Symphony, and NBC, who owned the rights to the NBC Symphony and Toscanini, this concert could never be issued in its entirety, but a pact was made to issue act III of Rigoletto because the focus was more on the singers than the orchestra. But NBC made a further concession, which was to hide the name of the competing orchestra on the labels of all LP and some CD issues. I haven’t examined RCA 67893 to see if the Philharmonic-Symphony of New York is listed or not, but my hunch is that it isn’t. Yet a friend of mine who knows remastering expert Seth Winner confirmed that, yes, both orchestras play in the second half as well, and the discography at Toscanini Online also lists both orchestras for the Rigoletto, Hymn of the Nations, and the Stars and Stripes Forever.


For those unfamiliar with this specific concert, it presents generally fast but emotionally powerful performances of the Verdi pieces and alternately relaxed and febrile readings of the Wagner. This may just be the most gorgeous rendition of the Tristan “Liebestod” that Toscanini has left us, and the Dresden version of the Tannhäuser overture is simply spectacular. What really impresses me is how, even at full volume with two orchestras, the famed Toscanini clarity of section-work is still present. I daresay there are few if any conductors alive today who could do the same thing without the help of a resourceful recording engineer.


Another thing that impresses me is the amount of space one hears around the orchestra and singers. Caniell claims that the Rigoletto was issued in its “original sound,” and that may well have been the case in its first appearance on LP, but I’ve heard both the RCA Victrola LP issue of the late 1960s and the early-1990s CD produced by John Pfeiffer, and both of them have a boxy, deadened sound, whereas here one hears the voices ring out with tremendous reverberance. But I think I have an answer. In this issue, Zinka Milanov’s voice has a hard, edgy quality in her loud high notes that was certainly not characteristic of her. I think it is possible that Milanov, hearing the “original sound,” contacted RCA and raised hell, because the bright top end was certainly rolled back in those later issues.


The raffling off of Toscanini’s baton is quite funny due to LaGuardia’s jibes and humor. “I hope some of you bidders identify yourselves,” he says at one point. “I’m used to hearing high bids and then having the bidders disappear!” The bids are astronomically high for that era, starting at $1,000 and eventually going to Mrs. James P. Donohue for $11,000.


The Hymn of the Nations is by no means a very good piece; it’s essentially a jingoistic flagwaver, but perfect for Toscanini’s purposes, especially after he shoehorned the American and Soviet Russian national anthems into it. Most collectors are familiar with his 1943 OWI film version, but this one, with 200 musicians and 600 choristers, has not only the musical impact of an atomic blast but also a warmth and amplitude missing from the film version.


Before ending, a word about Toscanini’s odd choice of Milanov to sing Gilda. He always insisted that Gilda should not be sung by a light, high voice of the type that sang Olympia in Contes d’Hoffmann, but rather by the same type of soprano who would sing Aida or Leonora in Il Trovatore. In one sense, he was right. In later years, audiences thrilled to the Gildas of Cristina Deutekom, Gail Robinson, and Margherita Rinaldi, but their voices were all brighter, with more squillo than Milanov’s. Her characteristically Slavic sound, essentially dark even on her open top notes, was simply wrong for this music. This is not to say that she didn’t do a good job—she did—but that Toscanini would have done better to select a soprano like Vivian Della Chiesa, who sang in his broadcast of the trio from I Lombardi, or Stella Roman.




RED CROSS BENEFIT CONCERT

New York Philharmonic and NBC Symphony Orchestras

Arturo Toscanini


Kenneth Morgan - Classic Recordings Quarterly, Summer 2012


These discs combine musical excellence with elements of patriotism, morality and aid for the Allied effort in the second world war. Living in New York and refusing to conduct in territories occupied by the Axis powers, Toscanini made his own pacifist gesture by conducting several War Bond concerts, the most extraordinary being the one presented here. This Red Cross benefit concert was given shortly before D-Day in front of an audience of 20,000 people in the old Madison Square Garden. Toscanini conducted the combined forces – almost 200 players – of the New York Philharmonic and NBC Symphony orchestras, supplemented by prominent opera singers and a huge chorus of 600 voices. Everything is included here: the music, the interval announcement, Mayor La Guardia’s raffle of Toscanini’s baton for the Red Cross, and the applause. The palpable flow of adrenalin in the music-making reaches a climax with rousing performances of the Ride of the Valkyries before the interval and the Sousa march to end proceedings. The booklet tells us that the concert raised the largest sum ever made at a classical music concert up to that time.


Toscanini’s performances are searching and exciting . . . delivered with that extra level of intensity produced at memorable concerts. . . . Additionally, the combined effect of two world-class orchestras offers great depth to the sound, especially noticeable in rich string playing and forthright brass.



Go Back to Product Page

For further information about the great vocal artists offered in our CD releases, including articles, discographies and photos, see The Record Collector at:
www.therecordcollector.org.
There are 0 item(s) in your shopping cart   |   Contact Us
 
Copyright ©1980-2003 Immortal Performances Recorded Music Society
Website Created and Maintained by Highly-Available.Net