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Dictionary Definition

Toscanini n : Italian conductor of many orchestras worldwide (1867-1957) [syn: Arturo Toscanini]

Extensive Definition

Arturo Toscanini () (March 25, 1867January 16, 1957) was an Italian musician. He was considered by many critics, fellow musicians, and much of the classical listening audience to have been one of the greatest conductors of all time. He was renowned for his brilliant intensity, his restless perfectionism, his phenomenal ear for orchestral detail and sonority, and his photographic memory which gave him extraordinary command over a vast repertoire of orchestral and operatic works, and allowed him to correct errors in orchestral parts unnoticed by his colleagues for decades.


Toscanini was born in Parma, Emilia-Romagna, and won a scholarship to the local music conservatory, where he studied the cello. He joined the orchestra of an opera company, with which he toured South America in 1886. While presenting Aida in Rio de Janeiro, the orchestra's conductor was booed by the audience and forced to leave the podium. Although he had no conducting experience, Toscanini was persuaded to take up the baton, and led a magnificent performance completely from memory. Thus began his career as a conductor at age 19.
Upon returning to Italy, Toscanini returned to his chair in the cello section, and participated as cellist in the world premiere of Verdi's Otello (La Scala, 1887) under the composer's supervision. (Verdi, who habitually complained that conductors never seemed interested in directing his scores the way he had written them, was impressed by reports from Arrigo Boito about Toscanini's ability to interpret his scores. The composer was also impressed when Toscanini consulted him personally, indicating a ritardando where it was not set out in the score; Verdi said that only a true musician would have felt the need to make that ritardando.)
Gradually the young musician's reputation as an operatic conductor of unusual authority and skill supplanted his cello career. In the following decade he consolidated his career in Italy, entrusted with the world premieres of Puccini's La Bohème and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci. In 1896, Toscanini conducted his first symphonic concert (works by Schubert, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and Wagner), in Turin. By 1898 he was resident conductor at La Scala, Milan and remained there until 1908, returning during the 1920s. He took the Scala Orchestra to the United States on a concert tour in 1920-21; it was during that tour that Toscanini made his first recordings (for the Victor Talking Machine Company).

International recognition

Outside of Europe, he conducted at the Metropolitan Opera in New York (1908–1915) as well as the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (1926–1936). He toured Europe with the New York Philharmonic in 1930; he and the musicians were acclaimed by critics and audiences wherever they went. As was also the case with the New York Philharmonic, Toscanini was the first non-German conductor to appear at Bayreuth (1930–1931). In the 1930s he conducted at the Salzburg Festival (1934–1937) and the inaugural concert in 1936 of the Palestine Symphony Orchestra (now the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra) in Tel Aviv, and later performed with them in Jerusalem, Haifa, Cairo and Alexandria.

Opposition to Italian fascist government

Toscanini ran in 1919 unsuccessfully as a Fascist parliamentary candidate in Milan. He had been called "the greatest conductor in the world" by Mussolini. However, he became disillusioned with fascism and repeatedly defied the Italian dictator after the latter's ascent to power in 1922. He refused to display Musolini's photograph or conduct the Fascist anthem Giovinezza at La Scala. He raged to a friend, "If I were capable of killing a man, I would kill Mussolini."
Just before a May 1931 concert at La Scala he was ordered to begin by playing Giovinezza. He refused. Afterwards he was, in his own words, "attacked, injured and repeatedy hit in the face" by a group of blackshirts. Mussolini, incensed by the conductor's refusal, had his phone tapped, placed him under constant surveillance and took away his passport. The passport was returned only after world outcry over Toscanini's treatment. He left Italy until 1938.

The NBC Symphony Orchestra

He returned to the United States where the NBC Symphony Orchestra was created for him in 1937. He conducted his first NBC broadcast concert on December 25, 1937, in NBC Studio 8-H in New York City's Rockefeller Center. The acoustics of the specially built studio were very dry; some remodeling in 1939 added a bit more reverberation. (In 1950, the studio was further remodeled for television productions; today it is used by NBC for Saturday Night Live. In 1980, it was used by Zubin Mehta and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in a series of special televised NBC concerts honoring the legacy of Toscanini called "Live From Studio 8H".)
The NBC broadcasts were preserved on large transcription discs, recorded at both 78-rpm and 33-1/3 rpm, until NBC began using magnetic tape in 1947. NBC used special RCA high fidelity microphones both for the broadcasts and for recording them; these microphones can be seen in some photographs of Toscanini and the orchestra. In addition, some of Toscanini's recording sessions for RCA Victor were mastered on magnetic sound film in a process developed about 1941, as detailed by RCA producer Charles O'Connell in his memoirs, On and Off The Record. In addition hundreds of hours of Toscanini's rehearsals with the NBC were preserved and are now housed in the Toscanini Legacy archive at The New York Public Library.
Toscanini was often criticized for neglecting American music; however, in 1938, he conducted the world premieres of two orchestral works by Samuel Barber, Adagio for Strings and Essay for Orchestra. In 1945, he led the orchestra in recording sessions of the Grand Canyon Suite by Ferde Grofé in Carnegie Hall (supervised by Grofé) and An American in Paris by George Gershwin in NBC's Studio 8-H. He also conducted broadcast performances of Copland's El Salon Mexico; Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue with soloists Earl Wild and Benny Goodman and Piano Concerto in F with pianist Oscar Levant; and music by other American composers, including two marches of John Philip Sousa. He even wrote his own orchestral arrangement of the National Anthem, which was incorporated into the NBC Symphony's performances of Verdi's Hymn of the Nations.
In 1940, Toscanini took the orchestra on a "goodwill" tour of South America. Later that year, Toscanini had a disagreement with NBC management over their use of his musicians in other NBC broadcasts; Toscanini threatened to move to CBS, until the dispute was resolved and he returned as music director. At that time Leopold Stokowski served as temporary music director and continued to appear periodically as a guest conductor of the orchestra.
One of the more remarkable broadcasts was in July 1942, when Toscanini conducted the American premiere of Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 7. Due to World War II, the score was microfilmed in the Soviet Union and brought by courier to the United States. Stokowski wanted to conduct the premiere and there were a number of remarkable letters between the two conductors (reproduced by Harvey Sachs in his biography) before Stokowski agreed to let Toscanini have the privilege of conducting the first performance. Unfortunately for New York listeners, a major thunderstorm virtually obliterated the NBC radio signals there, but the performance was heard elsewhere and preserved on transcription discs. It was later issued by RCA Victor in the 1967 centennial boxed set tribute to Toscanini, which included a number of NBC broadcasts never released on discs. Shostakovich himself reportedly expressed a dislike for the performance, after he heard a recording of the broadcast, as he reportedly stated in Testimony. In Toscanini's later years he expressed dislike for the work and amazement that he had actually conducted it.
In 1943, he appeared in a documentary film for the Office of War Information (OWI) directed by Alexander Hammid, Hymn of the Nations, which featured Toscanini conducting the NBC Symphony Orchestra in music of Verdi. Filmed in NBC Studio 8-H, the orchestra performed the overture to La Forza del Destino and Hymn of the Nations, the latter featuring tenor Jan Peerce and the Westminster Choir.
In the summer of 1950, Toscanini led the orchestra on an extensive transcontinental tour. It was during that tour that the well-known photograph of Toscanini riding the ski lift at Sun Valley, Idaho was taken. Toscanini and the musicians traveled on a special train chartered by NBC. The NBC concerts continued in Studio 8-H until the fall of 1950. They were then held in Carnegie Hall, where many of the orchestra's recording sessions had been held, due to the dry acoustics of Studio 8-H. The final broadcast performance, an all-Wagner program, took place on April 4, 1954, in Carnegie Hall. During this concert Toscanini suffered a memory lapse reportedly caused by a transient ischemic attack, although some have attributed the lapse to having been secretly informed that NBC intended to end the broadcasts and disband the NBC orchestra. He never conducted live in public again. That June, he participated in his final recording sessions, remaking portions of two Verdi operas so they could be commercially released. Toscanini was 87 years old when he retired. After his retirement, the NBC Symphony was reorganized as the Symphony of the Air, making regular performances and recordings, until it was disbanded in 1963.
On radio, he conducted seven complete operas, including La Bohème and Otello, all of which were eventually released on records and CD, thus enabling the modern listening public to hear what an opera conducted by Toscanini sounded like.

Personal life

Toscanini married Carla De Martini on June 21, 1897, when she was not yet 20 years old. Their first child, Walter, was born on March 19, 1898. A daughter, Wally, was born on January 16, 1900. Carla gave birth to another boy, Giorgio, in September 1901, but he died of diphtheria on June 10, 1906. Then, that same year, Carla gave birth to their second daughter, Wanda.
Toscanini worked with many great singers and musicians throughout his career, but few impressed him as much as the Ukrainian-American pianist Vladimir Horowitz. They worked together a number of times and even recorded Brahms' second piano concerto and Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto with the NBC Symphony for RCA. Horowitz also became close to Toscanini and his family. In 1933, Wanda Toscanini married Horowitz, with the conductor's blessings and warnings. It was Wanda's daughter, Sonia, who was once photographed by Life playing with the conductor.
During World War II, Toscanini lived in Wave Hill, a historic home in the Riverdale section of the Bronx in New York City.
Despite the reported infidelities revealed in Toscanini's letters documented by Harvey Sachs, he remained married to Carla until she died on June 23, 1951.

Final years

With the help of his son Walter, Toscanini spent his remaining years editing tapes and transcriptions of his performances with the NBC Symphony. The "approved" recordings were issued by RCA Victor, which also has issued his recordings with the Scala Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. His recordings with the BBC Symphony Orchestra (1937-39) and the Philharmonia Orchestra (1952) were issued by EMI. Various companies have issued recordings of a number of broadcasts and concerts, that he did not officially approve, on compact discs. Among these are stereophonic recordings of his last two NBC broadcast concerts.
Sachs and other biographers have documented the numerous conductors, singers, and musicians who visited Toscanini during his retirement. He was a big fan of early television, especially boxing and wrestling telecasts, as well as comedy programs.
When he died of stroke in New York at the age of 89 his body was returned to Italy and was interred in the Cimitero Monumentale in Milan.
In his will, he left his bâton to his protégée Herva Nelli.
Toscanini was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987.


At La Scala, which had what was then the most modern stage lighting system installed in 1901 and an orchestral pit installed in 1907, Toscanini pushed through reforms in the performance of opera. He insisted on darkening the lights during performances. As his biographer Harvey Sachs wrote: "He believed that a performance could not be artistically successful unless unity of intention was first established among all the components: singers, orchestra, chorus, staging, sets, and costumes."
Toscanini favored the traditional orchestral seating plan with the first violins and cellos on the left, the violas on the near right, and the second violins on the far right.


Toscanini conducted the world premieres of many operas, four of which have become part of the standard operatic repertoire: Pagliacci, La Bohème, La Fanciulla del West and Turandot; he took an active role in Alfano's completion of Turandot. He also conducted the first Italian performances of Siegfried, Götterdämmerung, Salome, Pelléas et Mélisande, as well as the South American premieres of Tristan und Isolde and Madama Butterfly and the North American premiere of Boris Godunov.

Recorded legacy


Toscanini made his first recordings in 1920 with the Scala Orchestra in Victor's Trinity Church studio and his last with the NBC Symphony Orchestra in June 1954 in Carnegie Hall. His entire catalog of commercial recordings was issued by RCA Victor, save for two single-sided recordings for Brunswick in 1926 with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and a series of excellent recordings with the BBC Symphony Orchestra from 1937 to 1939 for EMI's HMV label (some issued in the USA by RCA, others released only recently by EMI and Testament). Besides the 1926 recordings with the Philharmonic (his first with the electrical process), Toscanini made a series of recordings with them for Victor, in Carnegie Hall, in 1929 and 1936. He also recorded with the Philadelphia Orchestra for Victor in Philadelphia's Academy of Music in 1941 and 1942. All of the RCA recordings have been digitally re-mastered (some quite poorly by RCA/BMG) and released on CD. There are also recorded concerts with various European orchestras, especially with La Scala Orchestra and the Philharmonia Orchestra.

Hearing Toscanini

In some of his recordings, Toscanini can be heard singing or humming. This is especially true in RCA's recording of La Boheme by Puccini, recorded during broadcast concerts in NBC Studio 8-H in 1946. Tenor Jan Peerce later said that Toscanini's deep involvement in the performances helped him to achieve the necessary emotions, especially in the final moments of the opera when the beloved Mimi (played by Licia Albanese) is dying. During the "Tuba mirum" section of the January 1951 live recording of Verdi's Requiem Mass, Toscanini can be heard on the disc shouting as the brass blares during that terrifying music. In his recording of Richard Strauss' Death and Transfiguration, Toscanini sighed loudly near the end of the music; RCA Victor left this in the released recording.


He was especially famous for his performances of Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner, Richard Strauss, Debussy and his own compatriots Rossini, Verdi, Boito and Puccini. He made many recordings, especially towards the end of his career, many of which are still in print. In addition, there are many recordings available of his broadcast performances, as well as his remarkable rehearsals with the NBC Symphony.

Charles O'Connell on Toscanini

Charles O'Connell, who produced many of Toscanini's RCA Victor recordings in the 1930s and 1940s, said that RCA quickly decided to record the NBC Symphony Orchestra in Carnegie Hall, whenever possible, after being disappointed with the dull-sounding early recordings in Studio 8-H in 1938 and 1939. (Nevertheless, there were a few recording sessions in Studio 8-H as late as June 1950, probably because of improvements to the acoustics in 1939.) O'Connell, and others, often complained that Toscanini was little interested in recording and, as Harvey Sachs wrote, he was frequently disappointed that the microphones failed to pick up everything he heard during the recording sessions. O'Connell even complained of Toscanini's failure to cooperate with RCA during the sessions. Toscanini himself was often disappointed that the 78-rpm discs failed to fully capture all of the instruments in the orchestra; those fortunate to attend Toscanini's concerts later said the NBC string section was especially outstanding.

Philadelphia Orchestra recordings

O'Connell also extensively documented RCA's technical problems with the Philadelphia Orchestra recordings of 1941-42, which required extensive electronic editing before they could be released (well after Toscanini's death, beginning in 1963, with the rest following in the 1970s). Harvey Sachs also recounts that the masters were damaged, possibly due to somewhat inferior materials imposed by wartime restrictions. Unfortunately, a Musicians Union recording ban from 1942 to 1944 prevented immediate retakes; by the time the ban ended, the Philadelphia Orchestra had left RCA Victor for Columbia Records and RCA apparently was hesitant to promote the orchestra any further. Eventually, Toscanini recorded all of the same music with the NBC Symphony. In 1968, the Philadelphia Orchestra returned to RCA and the company was more favorable toward issuing all of the discs. As for the historic recordings, even on the CD versions, first released in 1991, some of the sides have considerable surface noise and some distortion, especially during the louder passages. The best sound of the recordings is the Schubert ninth symphony, which had been restored by RCA first (in 1963) and released on LP. The rest of the recordings were not issued until 1977 and, as Sachs noted, by that time some of the masters may have deteriorated further. Nevertheless, despite the occasional problems, the entire set is an impressive document of Toscanini's collaboration with the Philadelphia musicians and can be best heard in the 2006 RCA/BMG reissue, which benefit from recent advances in digital restoration. The listener can hear the rich sound of the orchestra, developed by Leopold Stokowski and Eugene Ormandy, enhanced by the more dynamic and aggressive conducting of the Italian maestro. Ormandy especially expressed his appreciation for what Toscanini achieved with the orchestra.

Later recordings

Later, when high fidelity and long playing records were introduced, the conductor said he was much happier making recordings. Sachs wrote that an Italian journalist, Raffaele Calzini, said Toscanini told him, "My son Walter sent me the test pressing of the [Beethoven] Ninth from America; I want to hear and check how it came out, and possibly to correct it. These long-playing records often make me happy."

Greatest recordings

By most accounts, among his greatest recordings are the following (with the NBC Symphony unless otherwise shown):


There are many pieces which Toscanini never recorded in the studio; among these, some of the most interesting surviving recordings (off-the-air) include:

Rehearsals and broadcasts

Many hundreds of hours of Toscanini's rehearsals were recorded. Some of these have circulated in limited edition recordings. Many broadcast recordings with orchestras other than the NBC have also survived, including: The New York Philharmonic from 1933-36, 1942, and 1945; The BBC Symphony Orchestra from 1935-1939; The Lucerne Festival Orchestra; and broadcasts from the Salzburg Festival in the late 1930s. Documents of Toscanini's guest appearances with the La Scala Orchestra from 1946-1952 include a live recording of Verdi's Requiem with the young Renata Tebaldi. Toscanini's ten NBC Symphony telecasts from 1948-1952 were preserved in kinescope films of the live broadcasts. These films provide unique video documentation of the passionate yet restrained podium technique for which he was well known.

Recording guide

A guide to Toscanini's recording career can be found in Mortimer H. Frank's "From the Pit to the Podium: Toscanini in America" in International Classical Record Collector (1998, 15 8-21) and Christopher Dyment's "Toscanini's European Inheritance" in International Classical Record Collector (1998, 15 22-8). Frank and Dyment also discuss Maestro Toscanini's performance history in the 50th anniversary issue of Classic Record Collector (2006, 47) Frank with 'Toscanini - Myth and Reality' (10-14) and Dyment 'A Whirlwind in London' (15-21) This issue also contains interviews with people who performed with Toscanini - Jon Tolansky 'Licia Albanese - Maestro and Me' (22-6) and 'A Mesmerising Beat: John Tolansky talks to some of those who worked with Arturo Toscanini, to discover some of the secrets of his hold over singers, orchestras and audiences.' (34-7). There is also a feature article on Toscanini's interpretation of Brahms's First Symphony - Norman C. Nelson, 'First Among Equals [...] Toscanini's interpretation of Brahms's First Symphony in the context of others' (28-33)

The Arturo Toscanini Society

In 1969, Clyde J. Key acted on a dream he had of meeting Toscanini by starting the Arturo Toscanini Society to release a number of "unapproved" live performances by Toscanini. As Time Magazine reported, Key scoured the U.S. and Europe for off-the-air transcriptions of Toscanini broadcasts, acquiring almost 5,000 transcriptions (all transferred to tape) of previously unreleased material--a complete catalogue of broadcasts by the Maestro between 1933 and 1954. It included about 50 concerts that were never broadcast, but which were recorded surreptitiously by engineers supposedly testing their equipment.
A private, nonprofit club based in Dumas, Texas, it offered members five or six LP's annually for a $25-a-year membership fee. Key's first package offering included Brahms' German Requiem, Haydn's Symphonies Nos. 88 and 104, and Richard Strauss' Ein Heldenleben, all NBC Symphony broadcasts dating from the late 1930s or early 1940s. In 1970, the Society releases included Sibelius' Symphony No. 4, Mendelssohn's "Scotish" Symphony, dating from the same NBC period; and a Rossini-Verdi-Puccini LP emanating from the post-War reopening of La Scala on May 11, 1946 with the Maestro conducting. That same year it released a Beethoven bicentennial set that included the 1935 Missa Solemnis with the Philharmonic and LP's of the 1948 televised concert of the ninth symphony taken from an FM radio transcription, complete with Ben Grauer's comments. (In the early 1990s, the kinescopes of these and the other televised concerts were released by RCA with soundtracks dubbed in from the NBC radio transcriptions; in 2006, they were rereleased by Testament on DVD.)
Additional releases included a number of Beethoven symphonies recorded with the New York Philharmonic during the 1930s, a performance of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 27 on Feb. 20, 1936, at which Rudolf Serkin made his New York debut, and one of the most celebrated underground Toscanini recordings of all, the legendary 1940 version of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, which has better soloists (Zinka Milanov, Jussi Bjoerling, both in their prime) and a more powerful style than the 1953 recording now available on RCA/BMG, although the microphone placement was kinder to the soloists in 1940.
Because the Arturo Toscanini Society was nonprofit, Key said he believed he had successfully bypassed both copyright restrictions and the maze of contractual ties between RCA and the Maestro's family. However, RCA's attorneys were soon looking into the matter to see if they agreed. As long as it stayed small, the Society appeared to offer little real competition to RCA. But classical-LP profits were low enough even in 1970, and piracy by fly-by-night firms so prevalent within the industry (an estimated $100 million in tape sales for 1969 alone), that even a benevolent buccaneer outfit like the Arturo Toscanini Society had to be looked at twice before it could be tolerated.
Magazine and newspaper reports subsequently detailed legal action taken against Key and the Society, presumably after some of the LPs began to appear in retail stores. Toscanini fans and record collectors were dismayed because, although Toscanini had not approved the release of these performances in every case, many of them were found to be further proof of the greatness of the Maestro's musical talents. One outstanding example of a remarkable performance not approved by the Maestro was his December 1948 NBC broadcast of Dvorak's Symphonic Variations, released on an LP by the Society. (A kinescope of the same performance, from the television simulcast, has been released on VHS and laser disc by RCA/BMG and on DVD by Testament.) There was speculation that, the Toscanini family itself, prodded by his daughter Wanda, sought to defend the Maestro's original decisions, made mostly during his last years, on what should be released. Whatever the real reasons, the Arturo Toscanini Society was forced to disband and cease releasing any further recordings.

The Television Concerts

Arturo Toscanini was very likely the first conductor to make extended appearances on live television, beginning with an all-Wagner concert in March 1948 in Studio 8-H. Between 1948 and 1952, he conducted ten concerts telecast on NBC, including a two-part concert performance of Verdi's complete opera Aida starring Herva Nelli and Richard Tucker, and the first complete telecast of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. All of these were simulcast on radio. These concerts were all shown only once during that four-year span, but they were preserved on kinescope, though they remained unseen for many years.
The NBC cameras were often left on Toscanini for extended periods, documenting not only his baton techniques but his deep involvement in the music. When a piece ended, Toscanini generally nodded rather than bowed, prefering to give more recognition to the soloists and the orchestra. At the end of the April 1948 telecast of the Beethoven ninth symphony, Toscanini acknowledged the vocal quartet, the orchestra, and even choral director Robert Shaw, who was asked to come forward for the audience's applause, as announcer Ben Grauer noted in the original broadcast.
As part of a huge restoration project initiated by the Toscanini family in the late 1980s, the kinescopes were fully restored and issued on VHS and laser disc beginning in 1989. However, the audio portion of the sound was taken, not from the old kinescopes, which had a sub-par sound quality, but from then state-of-the-art high fidelity 33-1/3 rpm 16-inch transcriptions (1948) and audio tape recordings (1949-52) that had been made by the NBC technicians of these same concerts as they were actually taking place. The hi-fi audio was then perfectly and exactingly synchronized to the picture so that it now appeared as if these programs had originally been made with hi-fi sound. The original audio commentary, by NBC's longtime announcer Ben Grauer, was also replaced by Martin Bookspan's more sonically modern announcements.
Although NBC continued to broadcast the orchestra on radio until April 1954, telecasts were abandoned after March 1952. The kinescope of the last telecast, however, shows that the special lights required for the telecasts were particularly hard on the Maestro, who was then 85 years old. Possibly Toscanini himself decided not to appear on television any further.
The entire group of Toscanini videos has since been issued by Testament on DVD, both in England and in the U.S. with much improved sound and pictures. The Hymn of the Nations film has also been issued on VHS, laser disc and DVD. Toscanini's arrangement of the Socialist Internationale (then the Soviet Union's national anthem) was cut from the video, jumping from the Italian anthem to The Star-Spangled Banner, but it remains on the CD version.
The telecasts began on March 20, 1948, with an all-Wagner program, including the Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin; the overture and bacchanale from Tannhauser; "Forest Murmurs" from Siegfried; "Dawn and Siegfried's Rhine Journey" from Gotterdammerung; and "The Ride of the Valkyries" from Die Walkure. Beethoven's ninth symphony was telecast on April 3, 1948. On November 13, 1948, there was an all-Brahms program, including Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Orchestra in A minor (Mischa Mischakoff, violin; Frank Miller, cello); Liebeslieder-Walzer, Op. 52 (with two pianists and a small chorus); and Hungarian Dance No. 1 in G minor. On December 3, 1948, Toscanini conducted Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550; Dvorak's Symphonic Variations, Op. 78; and Richard Wagner's original overture to Tannhauser.
There were two telecasts in 1949, on March 26 and April 2, both devoted to the concert version of Verdi's Aida. Portions of the audio were rerecorded in June 1954 for the commercial release of the LP records. On the video, the soloists were placed next to Toscanini, in front of the orchestra, while the members of the Robert Shaw Chorale were on risers behind the orchestra.
There were no telecasts in 1950, but they resumed from Carnegie Hall on November 3, 1951, with Karl Maria von Weber's overture to Euryanthe and Brahms' Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68. On December 29, 1951, there was another all-Wagner program that included the two excerpts from Siegfried and Die Walkure featured on the March 1948 telecast, plus the Prelude to Act II of Lohengrin; the Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde; and "Siegfried's Death and Funeral Music" from Gotterdammerung.
On March 15, 1952, Toscanini conducted the Symphonic Interlude from Cesar Franck's Rédemption; Sibelius' En Saga, Op. 9; Debussy's "Nuages" and "Fetes" from Nocturnes; and the overture of Rossini's William Tell. The final telecast, on March 22, 1952, included Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67, and Respighi's The Pines of Rome.

Toscanini and the critics

Throughout his career, Toscanini was virtually idolized by the critics, as well as by fellow musicians (with the exception of a few, such as Virgil Thomson) and by the public alike. He enjoyed the kind of critical acclaim that few musicians have consistently had. In November of 1947, one reader of Time Magazine went so far as to nominate him for Man of the Year,9171,887730,00.html, a title that has never gone to a classical musician.
Over the past twenty-five years or so, however, as a new generation has appeared, there has been an increasing amount of revisionist criticism directed at him. These critics contend that Toscanini was a detriment to American music rather than an asset because he neglected to perform modern classical music, placing an emphasis mostly on older European music. According to Harvey Sachs, Mortimer Frank, and B.H. Haggin, this criticism can be traced to the lack of focus on Toscanini as a conductor rather than his legacy. Frank, in his recent book Toscanini: The NBC Years, rejects this revisionism quite strongly, and cites the author Joseph Horowitz (author of Understanding Toscanini) as perhaps the worst offender in this case. Frank states that the revisionism has grown to the point that younger listeners and critics, who have not heard as many of Toscanini's performances as the older generation, are easily influenced by it, and as a result, his reputation, extraordinarily high in the years that he was active, has suffered a decline. Conversely, Joseph Horowitz contends that those who keep the Toscanini legend alive are members of a "Toscanini cult", an idea not altogether refuted by Frank, but not embraced by him, either.
Several critics, such as Virgil Thomson, have taken Toscanini to task for not paying enough attention to the "modern repertoire" (i.e., twentieth-century composers), forgetting that during Toscanini's middle years, such luminaries as Claude Debussy, whose music the conductor held in very high regard, were considered extremely modern. The aforementioned Joseph Horowitz is another writer who feels that Toscanini should have paid more attention to modern-day composers.

The Toscanini Legacy

In 1986, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts purchased the bulk of Toscanini's papers, scores and sound recordings from his heirs. Named The Toscanini Legacy, this vast collection contains thousands of letters, programs and various documents, over 1,800 scores and more than 400 hours of sound recordings. A finding aid for the scores is available on the library's website. In house finding aids are available for other parts of the collection.
The Library also has many other collections that have Toscanini materials in them, such as the Bruno Walter papers, the Fiorello H. La Guardia papers, and a collection of material from Rose Bampton.
Toscanini was featured three times on the cover of Time magazine, in 1926, 1934, and again in 1948.


  • Of Richard Strauss, whose political behavior during World War II was arguably very questionable: "To Strauss the composer I take off my hat; to Strauss the man I put it back on again."
  • "The conduct of my life has been, is, and will always be the echo and reflection of my conscience."
  • "Gentlemen, be democrats in life but aristocrats in art."
  • Referring to the first movement of the Eroica: "To some it is Napoleon, to some it is a philosophical struggle. To me it is allegro con brio."
  • At the point where Puccini left off writing the finale of his unfinished opera, Turandot: "Here Death triumphed over art". (Toscanini then left the opera pit, the lights went up and the audience left in silence.).
  • Toscanini was invited in the year 1940 to visit a movie set at the Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios. There he said with tears in his eyes, "I will remember three things in my life: the sunset, the Grand Canyon and Eleanor Powell's dancing."

Toscanini in film

  • Toscanini is the subject of the fictionalized biography Young Toscanini, starring C. Thomas Howell, and directed by Franco Zeffirelli. It received scathing reviews and was never officially released in the United States. The film is a fictional recounting of the events that led up to Toscanini making his conducting debut in Rio de Janeiro in 1886. Although nearly all of the plot is embellished, the events surrounding the sudden and unexpected conducting debut are based on fact.


  • Seraphim recordings/liner notes
  • Arturo Toscanini Society recordings
  • RCA home videos

Further reading

  • Antek, Samuel (author) and Hupka, Robert (photographs), This Was Toscanini, New York: Vanguard Press, 1963 (consists of a series of essays by one of the NBC Symphony musicians who played under Toscanini, combined with remarkable performance photographs from the latter part of Toscanini's career).
  • Frank, Mortimer H., Arturo Toscanini: The NBC Years, New York: Amadeus Press, 2002. (Re-evaluates favorably several of Toscanini's most strongly criticized performances. Complete list and analysis of NBC symphony performances under Toscanini as well as other conductors.)
  • Haggin, B. H., Arturo Toscanini: Contemporary Recollections of the Maestro, New York: Da Capo Press, 1989 (reprint of Conversations with Toscanini and The Toscanini Musicians Knew).
  • Horowitz, Joseph, Understanding Toscanini, New York: Knopf, 1987 (a revisionist treatment, attacking Toscanini's legacy).
  • Marek, George R., Toscanini, New York: Atheneum, 1975. ISBN 0-689-10655-6 (Contains some factual errors corrected by Sachs.)
  • Marsh, R.C. Toscanini on Records-Part I: High Fidelity Magazine vol 4,1954, pp 55-58
  • Marsh Part II: vol 4,1955, pp 75-81
  • Marsh Part III: vol 4,1955, pp 83-91
  • Matthews, Denis, Arturo Toscanini. New York: Hippocrene, 1982. ISBN 0-88254-657-0 (includes discography)
  • O'Connell, Charles, The Other Side of the Record. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1947. (Inside view of Toscanini's recordings)
  • Sachs, Harvey, Reflections on Toscanini, New York: Prima Publishing, 1993. (Series of essays on various aspects of Toscanini's life and impact.)
  • Sachs, Harvey, ed., The Letters of Arturo Toscanini, New York: Knopf, 2003.
  • Taubman, Howard, The Maestro: The Life of Arturo Toscanini, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1951 (contains factual errors corrected by Haggin and Sachs).
  • Teachout, Terry, Toscanini Lives, Commentary Magazine, July/August 2002

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