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The Barber of Seville Overture (Rossini) /…

The Barber of Seville Overture (Rossini) / Symphony No. 6 (Tchaikovsky)…

by Arturo Toscanini

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Arturo Toscanini

Complete Concert of March 21, 1954

[1] Opening announcements and applause

Rossini: The Barber of Seville
[2] Overture
[3] Applause and announcements

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 “Pathétique”
[4] Adagio
[5] Allegro con grazia
[6] Allegro molto vivace
[7] Adagio lamentoso

[8] Applause and announcements

NBC Symphony Orchestra
Arturo Toscanini

Recorded in stereo in Carnegie Hall.

Music & Arts, 2006. TT 58:23. Digital restoration, Aaron Z. Snyder. Liner notes by Aaron Z. Snyder (“On Restoring This Recording”) and Christopher Dyment (“Toscanini plays Rossini and Tchaikovsky in his last-but-one concert”).


This concert was recorded four days before Toscanini’s 87th birthday. It was his penultimate public appearance and his first recording in stereo. He died less than three yeas later. This is enough to make it obligatory for the shelves of any fan, but it’s no use kidding ourselves. Much of the intensity, drive and precision for which Toscanini was famous are missing here. The Symphony is considerably slower than all of his previous recordings – roughly a minute a movement – and though it remains, I guess, an enjoyable performance for those ignorant of Toscanini in his prime, for the rest it is a rather bewildering experience. It sounds like somebody else, or, in Mortimer Frank’s apt words, “like a first run-through of an unfamiliar work by a highly skilled ensemble”[1]. Likewise The Barber Overture compared to the ebullient 1945 studio recording. Of course it’s nice to hear the fuller and deeper stereo sound, but that tells you little if anything about Toscanini’s greatness you can’t obtain from his mono recordings. In short, sentimental value and historical importance largely compensate for inferior, at least by Toscanini's usual standards, musical quality. I wouldn’t want my modest Toscanini collection to be without this recording, but I seldom play it for the simple reason that I find it almost painfully poignant.

[1] Mortimer H. Frank, Arturo Toscanini: The NBC Years, Amadeus Press, 2002, p. 112. ( )
1 vote Waldstein | Feb 15, 2016 |
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