Essential Toscanini Recordings – These are some of the best recordings to get if you want to become familiar with Toscanini’s art and start your own collection. Be sure to visit About the Collection for information about the music samples.
All music examples in this site are protected under the “Fair Use” Section 107 of the Copyright Law (U.S. Code, Title 17). slot88
Official RCA releases
Beethoven: Symphonies – Vols. 1-5 Although some earlier performances may be slightly better than some of these, the performance and sound quality of these are excellent throughout.
Berlioz: Harold in Italy – Vol. 33 My favorite Berlioz piece.
Berlioz: Romeo and Juliet – Vol. 34 Some of the most spirited playing ever put to record.
Brahms: Symphonies – Vols. 6-9 I prefer the Philharmonia and some of the other earlier broadcasts but these are in better sound and the performances are still absolutely stunning.
Catalani: La Wally (Prelude to Act IV) – Vol. 50 One of the most beautiful and spellbinding miniatures ever recorded. The disc is worth it even if it only contained this 6 minute prelude.
Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4 & 5 – Vol. 17 The 5th is totally stunning. Sound quality is also good on Red Seal.
Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition / Elgar Enigma Variations – Vol. 35 A stroll past sketches by Mussorgsky’s friend evoking wonderful images and sketches in music of Elgar’s friends. Both of these are among my favorite pieces.
Respighi: Pines and Fountain of Rome / Feste Roman – Vol. 32 Brilliant tone pictures.
Rossini: Overtures – Vol. 47 All great fun.
Schubert: Symphonies 8 & 9 – Vol. 14 Great pieces of music.
Strauss: Don Quixote/Death and Transfiguration – Vol. 30 This D&T; is in my opinion is one of the most powerful pieces ever written and performed. The labored breathing at the start, the recollection of events of a life lived and the final resignation, acceptance, and release. Turn off the lights and turn this up.
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 – Vol. 18 A full blooded performance.
Tchaikovsky: Manfred Symphony – Vol. 19 Another very dramatic Tchaikovsky piece.
Verdi: Otello – Vol. 58 Gives some idea of what life for the average La Scala or Met goer must have been like. Do NOT get this Gold Seal release, but the far superior one on Guild.
Wagner: Any disc of Wagner excerpts. My favorites are Vol. 49 (no singing) or Vol. 53 (singing).
Independent broadcast releases
Beethoven: Symphonies – 1939 My favorites are an awesome Leonore No. 2, and the greatest Eroica ever.
Beethoven Symphony No. 5 – 1933, No. 7 – 1936 These performances with the Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York are legendary. Don’t think of getting any pressing other than the superb transfers on Naxos 8.110840 by Mark Obert-Thorn.
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Schnabel – EMI CHS 7 63765 2 Piano playing on the edge. I imagine that no mortal could perform what was going through Beethoven’s head when he wrote these pieces. This is probably as close as we will ever get. I have not heard the Mark Obert-Thorn transcriptions on Naxos, but I would bet they are excellent.
Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 Walter – Columbia Symphony Sony SMK 64 483 Big long sweeping melodies to big climaxes.
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1/ Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 3 Kapell / Mitropoulos/Stokowski – Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra Music & Arts CD-990 The fidelity is not the best but you will never hear piano playing like this anywhere else. William Kapell might have become the one of the greatest pianist who ever lived if he had not been killed at a young age in a plane crash. The Brahms has much better sound than the Prokofiev but these performances are so awesome that they are worth the effort.
Chopin: Nocturnes Rubinstein RCA 5613-2-RC Chopin: Preludes Rubinstein RCA 60047-2-RG All Rubinstein/Chopin recordings are treasures. It is difficult to say which are better than others. If you like Chopin, get them all.
Dvorak: Symphony No. 8 Silvestri – London Philharmonic Disky DB 707432 Walter – Columbia Symphony Sony SMK 64 484 I use to think that no performance of the 8th could be better than Walter’s, then I found Silvestri.
Elgar: Cello Concerto / Sea Pictures DuPre – Cello / Baker – Soprano EMI CDC 7 47329 2 In my opinion, this is one of the greatest discs ever recorded. I can give it no higher recommendation.
Falla: Nights in the Gardens of Spain Rubinstein / Jorda – San Francisco Symphony – RCA 09026 63032-2 There is no more magical night on earth than this recording. The sound on the AR Vol. 32 edition and the Living Stereo CD are identical so get either one.
Grieg: Peer Gynt (Complete) Dreier – London Symphony Unicorn UK CD 2003-4 Chocked full of wonderful music.
Hanson: Symphony No. 1 “Nordic” Schwarz – Seattle Symphony Delos D/CD 3073 I was at the performance of this symphony shortly before this recording was made. Schwarz brought the house down. This wasn’t another one of those famous has-beens performing a worn out concerto so I might as well stand and applaud ovations. This was the real thing for a piece that few if any in the audience had ever heard before, brilliantly played and with such a rousing ending that you just had no choice but to leap to your feet and cheer. The rest of the Schwarz – Hanson recordings are also excellent.
Massenet: Piano Concerto Ciccolini / Cambreling – Orchestra Philharmonic de Monte-Carlo EMI CDM 7 64277 2 This is one of my favorite concertos and it remains virtually unheard. Great fun to listen to.
Offenbach: Gaite Parisienne Fiedler – Boston Pops RCA 09026-61847-2 Has anyone ever made a recording with this much gaite? I doubt it!
Orff: Carmina Burana Jochum – Berlin Opera & Chorus DG 447 437-2 One of my favorite pieces.
Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet (Complete) Maazel – Cleveland Orchestra London 289 452 970-2 Another amazing piece heard best complete instead of as abridged suites.
Rachmaninoff: The Complete Recordings RCA 09026-61265-2 A Window in Time – Telarc CD-80489 and CD-80491 The Concertos and Rhapsody with superb transfers on Naxos by Mark Obert-Thorn are superior to those in the RCA set so buy them first then get the RCA box of treasures. Rachmaninoff conducting his Isle of the Dead and playing the Chopin “Funeral March” Sonata No. 2 is worth the price alone. The two Telarc discs must be the best transfers of piano rolls ever done with one fatal flaw. They are performed on a Bösendorfer which I suppose is a fine piano except Rachmaninoff played a Steinway and quite simply a Bösendorfer does not sound like a Steinway. In any case, hearing Rachmaninoff’s technique in modern sound is a true revelation.
Ravel: Piano Concerto in G Argerich / Abbado – Berlin Philharmonic DG 419 062-2 A very beautiful concerto played by who I think is the greatest living pianist who, alas, performs and records to seldom.
Respighi: Concerto in Modo Misolidio for Piano and Orchestra Hanke / Fredman – Sydney Symphony Orchestra – Marco Polo 8.220176 For those only familiar with the Pines/Fountains/Feste Roman Trilogy, this piece blows them all out of the water. The disc includes the Three Preludes on Gregorian Themes for Piano Solo the beauty of which brings tears to my eyes and shivers down my spine. They later became orchestrated as Church Windows. Sonya Hanke is an wonderful pianist. Are there any other recordings by her?
Saint-Saens: Symphony No. 3 “Organ” Ormandy – Philadelphia Orchestra Sony SBK 47655 Another of my favorite pieces and recordings.
Sibelius: Four Legends from the Kalevala Ormandy – Philadelphia Orchestra EMI CDC-7 47612 2 One of my favorite composers. Generally somewhat cold austere music with moments of incredible drama.
Sibelius: Symphony No. 1 Stokowski – National Philharmonic Sony SB2K 63260 or EMI 75480 My favorite use to be Ormandy, but this wipes everything else away. How do you do this at 94 years old?
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5 Ormandy – Philadelphia Orchestra Sony SBK 53 261 Another of my favorite pieces and recordings.
Smetana: My Country Talich – Czech Philharmonic – Supraphon 11 1896-2 001 I have tried to keep this list to more modern stereo recordings, but I love the energy of this 1954 mono performance.
Tchaikovsky: Francesca Da Rimini / Bizet: Symphony in C Munch – Royal Philharmonic Chesky CD 7 An incredibly dramatic piece describing a story from Dante’s “Inferno”. The Bizet is also great fun. Better performance than Stokowski’s which seem to get more press.
Tchaikovsky: Concerto No.1 / Rachmaninoff: Concerto No. 3 Argerich / Chaily / Kondrashin Philips 446 673-2 My favorite Tchaikovsky concerto performance and what was billed on the sticker as “The Ultimate Rachmaninoff 3rd” to which I heartily agree (although Rachmaninoff’s own recording is also pretty darn good). Most piano lovers have always known that the 3rd concerto is better than the still very lovely but much more often played 2nd concerto.
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake (Complete) Dutoit – Montreal London 436 212-2 If you have only heard short suites of Swan Lake, you are in for a real surprise. There is more great music in this one composition than most composers generate in a lifetime.
Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto Kogan / Silvestri EMI 0777 7 67732 2 3 or 7243 5 74757 2 3 One of the greatest violinists teamed up with one of the greatest conductors. An absolutely stunning performance with one of the best sounding violins I have ever heard.
Vaughn Williams: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis Warren-Green – London Chamber Orchestra – Virgin 7243 5 61126 2 9 Marriner – ASMF Argo 414 595-2 A beautiful example of British “Pastoral Music”. I love this stuff for a nice quiet evening with the lights off. My favorite performance of this material use to be the wonderful Marriner recording but it has been surpassed by the Warren-Green performances. WG as “The Lark Ascending” is truly one of the most expressive examples of violin playing I have ever heard.
Vaughn Williams: A London Symphony Hickox – London Symphony Orchestra Chandos CHAN 9902 A truly stunning recording. I would rather listen to the 2nd movement than go to heaven.
Modern / Contemporary Sondheim: Sweeney Todd No opera composer has written a more skilled and intense work – period.
Pink Floyd: The Wall Too many shows, too much dope, too much applause, Pink descends into madness.
Keith Jarrett: Vienna Concert “I have courted the fire for a very long time, and many sparks have flown in the past, but the music on this recording speaks, finally, the language of the flame itself”. The man and the music are fire incarnate. Sparks fly in “The Köln Concert”.
Guido Cantelli (1920 – 1956) If Cantelli had not died so early in his career, he would probably be one of the greatest conductors of the second half of the 20th century. An excellent biography with a complete list of performances is Guido Cantelli: Portrait of a Maestro (1981) by Laurence Lewis, San Diego: A.S. Barnes & Company, Inc. oxplay
Constantin Silvestri (1913 – 1969) The Disky 10 CD set is not available. Otherwise I would advise you to rush out and get it NOW! I can give no higher praise to this great conductor than to say I would be hard pressed to assemble 10 CDs of Toscanini that would contain this much incredible music making.
Leopold Stokowski (1882 – 1977) What can I say but that I love this guys way with music, even when I am going “What was this guy thinking?!!!”. Start with the RCA box set. Try to find some of the out-of-print London Phase Four CDs – not LPs and then work through any of his Wagner, especially the Everest Parsifal Synthesis, and the stunning 1934 R-K Scheherazade. Use the LSSA site to help you pick.
Record Labels – The following is a list of the different labels that have produced CDs that are in my collection. The number in brackets represents the number of CD discs or sets I have from the company.
Be sure to visit About This Collection for information about the music samples.
All music examples in this site are protected under the “Fair Use” Section 107 of the Copyright Law (U.S. Code, Title 17). slot gacor
Sources of “official” recordings
These are the recordings Toscanini approved for release by the license holders.
RCA – SONY Site RCA Gold Seal (GS) “Arturo Toscanini Collection” (71) – This is probably the best quality that we will see for most of this material. In a few cases, the sound on earlier LP releases is still superior (if you can still remember how to make your brain filter out LP defects).
RCA Red Seal (RS) “The Immortal” (12) – Advertised as a UV22 SuperCD Encoding from original sources whenever possible. A decade of new technology since the Gold Seal release was suppose to make “more musical and accurate remasterings.” The actual transfers from the masters may have in fact been more musical and accurate, but what was pressed to the CDs is something entirely different. What my ears hear is mild fake stereo and reverb with some additional noise suppression that has filtered the highs and removed the detail from strings. I don’t want to give the impression that these transfers are bad or unlistenable. Some of the earlier releases tended to be somewhat bright and if your sound system has some upper end emphasis, which is not uncommon, then you may actually prefer the new releases. This is just a return to the old RCA philosophy that for historic monaural releases to sell, the general public will prefer them with reverb and fake stereo and will not tolerate any residual hiss or noise. Whether they are “musical” is a matter of personal taste, but they are not “accurate”.
The opening of Beethoven’s 9th on Gold Seal “Arturo Toscanini Collection”
Books About Toscanini Toscanini, (1978) Harvey Sachs, Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company. The definitive biography.
Reflections on Toscanini, (1991) Harvey Sachs, New York: Grove Weidenfeld. Additional material to complement the original biography. idn live
The Letters of Arturo Toscanini, (2002) Harvey Sachs, New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Correspondence with his wife, children, colleagues, friends, and lovers.
Arturo Toscanini: The NBC Years, (2002) Mortimer H. Frank, Portland Oregon: Amadeus Press. A complete description of all the NBC broadcasts. There are quite a few errors that I have noted here.
This Was Toscanini, (1963) Samuel Antek, New York: The Vanguard Press. Indispensable, the source of all of the great Hupka photographs.
The NBC Symphony Orchestra, (1938) Introduction by Hendrik Willem van Loon, New York: National Broadcasting Company. History of the orchestra and biographies of personnel. Contains charcoal portraits by Bettina Steinke.
Conversations with Toscanini, (1959) B. H. Haggin, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc. Fascinating insight from an excellent music essayist.
The Toscanini Musicians Knew, (1980) B. H. Haggin, New York: Horizon Press. What some of his colleagues thought.
Portraits of Greatness – Toscanini, (1987) John W. Freeman and Walfredo Toscanini, New York: Treves Publishing Company. An excellent brief softcover bio with lots of photographs.
Toscanini and the Art of Orchestral Performance, (1956) Robert Charles March, Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co. A brief bio, performance analysis and a US repertoire list for the years 1925 to 1954.
Arturo Toscanini, (1982) Denis Matthews (with selected discography by Ray Burford), New York: Hippocrene Books. Another short bio, this time with a discography with comments.
Toscanini, (1975) George R. Marek, New York: Atheneum.
Toscanini, (1936) Paul Stefan (Translated from the Austrian by Eden and Cedar Paul), New York: The Viking Press. A short book with some good insights written before Toscanini conducted the NBC Symphony.
Toscanini and Great Music, (1938) Lawrence Gilman, New York: Farrar & Rinehart.
The Magic Baton, (1957) Filippo Sacchi (First Published in Italian), New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
The Story of Arturo Toscanini, (1960) David Ewen, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
The Maestro, (1951) Howard Taubman, New York: Simon and Schuster.
The Toscanini Legacy, (1969) Spike Hughes, New York: Dover Publications, Inc. Performance analysis of a number of works.
Toscanini: An Intimate Portrait, (1956) Samuel Chotzinoff, New York: Alfred A. Knopf. There are a million copies of this, but don’t bother.
Arturo Toscanini, (1929) Tobia Nicotra (Translated from the Italian by Irma Brandeis and H.D. Kahn), New York: The Sun Dial Press, Inc. Another early biography.