Toscanini: Preserving a Legacy in Sound

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John F
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Toscanini: Preserving a Legacy in Sound

Post by John F » Fri Dec 22, 2017 6:26 am

Image

Arturo Toscanini was the most famous conductor of his time, or indeed any time. He was also one of the most hard-working, conducting thousands of operas, concerts, and radio broadcasts in a career that lasted from 1884, when he was a 17-year-old cellist in an opera company touring South America, until 1954, when he retired from conducting an orchestra created specially for him. A great many of those performances were recorded, whether by RCA Victor in its studios or during his broadcasts mainly on NBC. And the most comprehensive archive of Toscanini performances, comprising some 43,000 items, is owned by the Rodgers & Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound, a division of the New York Public library for the Performing Arts.

The sound archive doesn't just keep its collection on the shelves. Vast amounts of time, care, and money are spent to repair and restore the recordings. Experienced and sophisticated sound engineers such as Seth B. Winner, who has also restored historical recordings for commercial record companies, work with state of the art equipment to return the recordings to their original quality, as closely as is possible.

This major exhibition at the Library for the Performing Arts has a dual focus. It documents and celebrates the life and work of Toscanini, and it also illustrates the history of sound recording and audio preservation. Along one wall, on shelves 8 feet high, are the hundreds of 10"-reel audio tapes transferred from the Toscanini Legacy collection of sound recordings, 1926-1968 - Toscanini's own archive, assembled and eventually sold to the Library by his son Walter. In the center of the gallery are a dozen audio recording and playback devices used by the Library to make the transfers, including probably the only working Selenophon in the world. Video screens show Toscanini conducting the NBC Symphony Orchestra as reconstructed from kinescopes of the original NBC telecasts. Much to see and much to think about.

Incidentally, anyone can listen to any of these recordings in the Library for free, though advance notice may be required to retrieve some of them from off-site storage.

Open now. Ends April 7th, 2018.
https://www.forumania.com/forum/lifesty ... y-in-sound
John Francis

Heck148
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Re: Toscanini: Preserving a Legacy in Sound

Post by Heck148 » Fri Dec 22, 2017 8:26 am

Thanks, John -
I may just have to make a trip to NYC to check that out!!

barney
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Re: Toscanini: Preserving a Legacy in Sound

Post by barney » Wed Dec 27, 2017 3:00 am

Was Toscanini more famous than Bernstein or Karajan? Why do you make that claim?

John F
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Re: Toscanini: Preserving a Legacy in Sound

Post by John F » Wed Dec 27, 2017 7:15 am

The answers are yes, and because it's true. :)
John Francis

barney
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Re: Toscanini: Preserving a Legacy in Sound

Post by barney » Wed Dec 27, 2017 7:46 am

Well, I don't agree.
Fame is a nebulous term, of course.
On sales, Karajan is vastly ahead, and was known as Europe's music director.
Bernstein, thanks to television and his multi-platforms, was known to at least as wide an audience, I reckon.

Heck148
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Re: Toscanini: Preserving a Legacy in Sound

Post by Heck148 » Wed Dec 27, 2017 4:03 pm

John F wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 7:15 am
The answers are yes, and because it's true. :)
Yes, agreed - Toscanini was the most famous of his time....he defined "Conductor" or "Maestro" for at least a generation [or two]...

barney
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Re: Toscanini: Preserving a Legacy in Sound

Post by barney » Thu Dec 28, 2017 2:30 am

Heck148 wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 4:03 pm
John F wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 7:15 am
The answers are yes, and because it's true. :)
Yes, agreed - Toscanini was the most famous of his time....he defined "Conductor" or "Maestro" for at least a generation [or two]...
John didn't just say "of his time", he said "of any time". Does that alter it for you at all? The two that I raise as rivals were not "of his time". How do you judge that Toscanini was "more famous" than Bernstein? What are the parameters by which you come to this conclusion?

John F
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Re: Toscanini: Preserving a Legacy in Sound

Post by John F » Thu Dec 28, 2017 2:46 am

Bernstein's fame, I'd say, comes mainly from "West Side Story." He was not celebrated as a conductor nearly as much outside the United States and, in his later years, in Vienna. On the other hand, perhaps you don't appreciate the breadth and depth and extentof Toscanini's fame. If not for this fame, NBC would not have created a symphony orchestra just for him, and broadcast his concerts nationwide on its commercial network. That fame even spawned a book, Joseph Horowitz's "Understanding Toscanini," which complains about the publicity (notably NBC's) which exploited his fame. He's now been dead for half a century, yet much of his fame lives on.

Note that I did not say Toscanini was the finest conductor of his or any time. Many, including me, find his approach to some key parts of the repertoire (Beethoven, for example) limited and rather simplistic, though his fast tempos and the intensity he got from his players are certainly effective. In other repertoire, such as Verdi's "Otello" and "Falstaff," his influence is unmistakable; Bernstein's "Falstaff" is unquestionably School of Toscanini. But that's beside my point, which was about Toscanini's fame.
John Francis

Heck148
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Re: Toscanini: Preserving a Legacy in Sound

Post by Heck148 » Thu Dec 28, 2017 9:35 am

barney wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 2:30 am
John didn't just say "of his time", he said "of any time". Does that alter it for you at all?
No, it does not.
The two that I raise as rivals were not "of his time". How do you judge that Toscanini was "more famous" than Bernstein?
Toscanini epitomized the image, and the concept of the orchestra conductor, the "Maestro".

maestrob
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Re: Toscanini: Preserving a Legacy in Sound

Post by maestrob » Thu Dec 28, 2017 1:25 pm

Wow! Here we are, talking about Toscanini and Bernstein again. I think your perception, Barney, comes from living in Australia, where Toscanini's influence, while felt in the style of conducting of your music makers, was not as strong as it was here in the U. S.

Toscanini reinvented music-making: conductors here in the U. S. prided themselves on making music "in the style" of Toscanini. Do listen carefully to Heifetz's music-making, for example, which sounds sometimes too fast and cold for today's musical taste. Toscanini also became a political and pop-culture hero for refusing to play in Axis countries long before WWII started, giving up invitations to Salzburg, Bayreuth and La Scala, for example. OTOH, nobody today conducts in the style of Bernstein, who himself submitted to the Toscanini example of music-making in his early 1960's NY Philharmonic recordings, which are still in high demand today.

Thus, I've got to agree with JohnF and Heck about this.

Anyway, you're still invited to dinner next time you can make it to NY! :D

maestrob
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Re: Toscanini: Preserving a Legacy in Sound

Post by maestrob » Thu Dec 28, 2017 1:26 pm

Duplicate post deleted by poster.

barney
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Re: Toscanini: Preserving a Legacy in Sound

Post by barney » Sun Dec 31, 2017 5:46 pm

John F wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 2:46 am
Bernstein's fame, I'd say, comes mainly from "West Side Story." He was not celebrated as a conductor nearly as much outside the United States and, in his later years, in Vienna. On the other hand, perhaps you don't appreciate the breadth and depth and extentof Toscanini's fame. If not for this fame, NBC would not have created a symphony orchestra just for him, and broadcast his concerts nationwide on its commercial network. That fame even spawned a book, Joseph Horowitz's "Understanding Toscanini," which complains about the publicity (notably NBC's) which exploited his fame. He's now been dead for half a century, yet much of his fame lives on.

Note that I did not say Toscanini was the finest conductor of his or any time. Many, including me, find his approach to some key parts of the repertoire (Beethoven, for example) limited and rather simplistic, though his fast tempos and the intensity he got from his players are certainly effective. In other repertoire, such as Verdi's "Otello" and "Falstaff," his influence is unmistakable; Bernstein's "Falstaff" is unquestionably School of Toscanini. But that's beside my point, which was about Toscanini's fame.
The first big concert I remember going to was Bernstein and the NYPO touring New Zealand (I grew up in Wellington). My father, a conductor, was hugely impressed (though his favourite conductor was Szell). It may be that this has coloured my view. Perhaps we are at slight cross purposes here - I was thinking of Bernstein's TV appearances and celebrity status in the newspapers etc, and you may be ruling those out as not part of his conducting. And I am too young to have Toscanini while conducting.
So, thanks for the explanation, and I will withdraw my objections as gracefully as I can (rather like a rhinocerous in a china shop).

barney
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Re: Toscanini: Preserving a Legacy in Sound

Post by barney » Sun Dec 31, 2017 5:47 pm

maestrob wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 1:25 pm
Wow! Here we are, talking about Toscanini and Bernstein again. I think your perception, Barney, comes from living in Australia, where Toscanini's influence, while felt in the style of conducting of your music makers, was not as strong as it was here in the U. S.

Toscanini reinvented music-making: conductors here in the U. S. prided themselves on making music "in the style" of Toscanini. Do listen carefully to Heifetz's music-making, for example, which sounds sometimes too fast and cold for today's musical taste. Toscanini also became a political and pop-culture hero for refusing to play in Axis countries long before WWII started, giving up invitations to Salzburg, Bayreuth and La Scala, for example. OTOH, nobody today conducts in the style of Bernstein, who himself submitted to the Toscanini example of music-making in his early 1960's NY Philharmonic recordings, which are still in high demand today.

Thus, I've got to agree with JohnF and Heck about this.

Anyway, you're still invited to dinner next time you can make it to NY! :D
Thanks, Brian! Three good judges unanimous - I will accept your collective view.

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