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Beethoven: Symphony No. 3, Eroica / Egmont…

Beethoven: Symphony No. 3, Eroica / Egmont Overture

by Ludwig van Beethoven

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Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)

[1] Overture Egmont, Op. 84 [7'45]

Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 55 Eroica
[2] I. Allegro con brio [14'06]
[3] II. Marcia funebre. Adagio assai [15'20]
[4] III. Scherzo: Allegro vivace. Trio [5'23]
[5] IV. Finale: Allegro molto. Poco andante. Presto [11'13]

NBC Symphony Orchestra
Arturo Toscanini

[Recorded: 19 January 1953 (Egmont) & 6 December 1953 (Eroica, Live), Carnegie Hall.]

RCA Red Seal, 2009. 54'02.


The presentation of this budget-price re-issue is as mediocre as the performances are terrific. No recording details whatsoever are given in the "booklet", but these are obviously Toscanini's late – actually last – recordings of these masterpieces. The 1953-54 was his seventeenth and last season at the helm of the NBC Symphony. The Maestro had announced this himself the previous summer. The last two concerts in March and April 1954 were the only times Toscanini was ever recorded in stereo and an unmistakable sign of his failing powers. But there is no sign of those failing powers in this broadcast of Eroica from December 1953. This is a staggering performance in anybody's book. It has rightly superseded the 1949 studio recording in Toscanini's complete set with Beethoven's symphonies. Egmont is a studio recording from January of the same year. It is equally impressive proof of that "incredible muscular drive, counterbalanced by uncommon appreciation of the melodic impulse", as Martin Bernheirner has perceptively described the essence of Toscanini.[1] The cover gives no information about the remastering, either, except the usual generic clichés ("Best Sound", "Digitally Remastered", etc.), but though I haven't bothered to compare the sound, I would bet anything this is the same remastering first released in Vol. I of the Immortal series (1999) and later also in the complete set (2003). This is to say the sound remarkably fine for its age. It certainly is good enough to appreciate Toscanini's unique combination of raw energy, rhythmic precision and sensitive phrasing. Musicianship like that never really ages. If it becomes dated, so much the worse for modern performance practice.

[1] See his essay "Toscanini – Heritage of a Revolutionary", Los Angeles Times Calendar, April 2, 1967. It is reprinted in the booklet of the Music & Arts edition of The Final Concert. ( )
1 vote Waldstein | Feb 17, 2016 |
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