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).
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.