Arturo Toscanini: Gala Concert from the Benefit Pension Fund, NY Philh. = HAYDN: Symphony No. 101 in D Major “Clock”; RESPIGHI: The Pines of Rome; SIBELIUS: The Swan of Tuonela; WAGNER: Siegfried’s Funeral March from Goetterdaemmerung; WEBER: Overture to Euryanthe – New York Philharmonic/Arturo Toscanini
Guild GHCD 2368, 78:32 [Distr. by Albany] ****:
The concert at Carnegie Hall (13 November 1945), Arturo Toscanini conducting, returns to us in a blazing restoration from Guild, a momentous occasion, really, since Toscanini always maintained a deep affection for the ensemble from which he had resigned in 1936. The program duplicated verbatim Toscanini’s debut with the Philharmonic 5 January 1926, the occasion of the American premier of Respighi’s The Pines of Rome. The evening, moreover, turned out to be the last appearance of the Maestro before the New York Philharmonic, and in retrospect we sense a tone of relaxed valediction in the performances, which still retain the manic energy we associate with the feisty music director.
Toscanini had made a 1929 inscription of Haydn’s “Clock” Symphony in D, and his canny pacing–at an even greater speed–exploits Haydn’s penchant for rhythm and color details that make the music dance and sing. The long slow introduction becomes a study in orchestral tautness, only to explode in thunderous colors, a vital pageantry. The eponymous Andante relishes the string line over the woodwinds, the extension of which–the trumpets and tympani surging–dances with lithe elasticity. Toscanini takes the Menuetto Allegretto fiercely risoluto in long lines, Mediterranean quarry granite. The trio, however, softens the tissue for the interplay of the flute and strings in the form of a pastoral serenade. The horses run wild for the Vivace, breathless but not shapeless, and the audience agrees with Toscanini in matters Haydn.
Respighi’s gaudy hymn to Rome lunges at us in full panoply, and we can easily picture Scipio Africanus in regal raiment in triumph along either the Borghese or the Appian Way. The solemn dirge of the Pines near a Catacomb emanates the best of the orchestra’s low strings and trombones, mystical and evanescent. The sonorities rise to a magnificent peroration of religious fervor. The movement to the Janiculum Hill offers a lovely nocturne with piano obbligato and bird calls, a model of repose and refinement. The Pines of the Appian Way confirm Rome’s commitment to Mars, a triumph of the first order whose sheer jubilation provides a dramatic foil to the gloomy melancholy of the Sibelius invocation of Tuonela, the realm of death marked by some fluid playing by the Philharmonic‘s English horn.
Toscanini takes the invocation music to Siegfried’s Act III Funeral March, the high strings, harp, and winds sailing to Valhalla in nostalgic yearning before the dread tympanic patter and snakelike chromatic line announce Siegfried’s passing. Toscanini’s dramatic pace proves exemplary, even shattering. The woodwind lines and harp rise up to mourn the lost hopes in Siegfried, the mortal chosen to redeem the sin of the gods, the stealing of the Rhinegold. Finally the buoyancy returns in ecstatic force with Weber’s Overture to Euryanthe, here played as a bravura tour de force for wind band, tympani, and strings with some stentorian chorales from the brass. The love theme of Adolar and Bertha carries us sweetly to the woods and then to the counterpoint of which Toscanini remains an undisputed master. With the coda the New York audience wildly acknowledges the historic significance of the musical captured on this essential Toscanini disc.