Arturo Toscanini is a name most likely not familiar to a lot of people today (especially under a certain age), unless you are a serious music student and spend a lot of time listening to a lot of older mono recordings.
Toscanini was one of the giants of the podium. A legendary conductor in a field among other legendary conductors from the late 19th all the way to the mid-20th century. He was active up until his retirement in 1954 and headed up The NBC Symphony, an orchestra put together especially for him, and produced a series of recordings which were considered benchmarks throughout the 1940s and 1950s – first during the 78 era and later when lps came in, RCA Victor (his label and parent company of NBC) reissued practically all his early recordings and produced an up-to-date series of re-recordings for the lp era.
When he died in 1957, he was one of the most recognizable personalities and one of the most famous conductors ever to lead an orchestra. RCA kept his many recordings in the catalog all the way up to CD‘s, though numerous remasterings and reconstructions. He also left behind some 17 years of live concert broadcasts, which have mostly all been preserved and issued at various times by The Arturo Toscanini Society.
When Toscanini died in January of 1957, NBC Radio produced a memorial broadcast honoring the conductor. The one hour program consisted of excerpts of some of his broadcasts as well as reminiscences from colleagues and members of the orchestra. It was called Toscanini: The Man Behind The Legend, and it was a one-off tribute to the man who led the NBC Symphony through what became known as the Golden Age of Music. A few years later, in the early 1960s, the idea was revisited and turned into a weekly radio documentary series which went on until around 1966.
It offers a glimpse into the artistry of one of the most popular and well-liked conductors of the 20th century. This broadcast focuses on his concert performances peppered with anecdotes. There will be others I will post in the future that feature extensive interviews.
In the meantime, here’s something a little different for a Sunday night.