Christopher Dyment writes in his notes: "It is the finale [of this version] which clearly wins over all others: [by Toscanini]: supremely powerful, integrated and with greater breadth, its superiority is exemplified by the controlled lead into the fugue following the Alla marcia, often a trouble point for Toscanini but here perfectly achieved. The fugue's deliberate and inexorable build-up presents a vivid contrast with the equally remarkable contemporary rendition of this orchestral passage by the Berlin Philharmonic under Furtwängler in London on 1 May 1937, where at a faster tempo the music rushes forward as if bursting the banks of a giant dam. And to have as soloists the distinguished Bovy (now all but forgotten save in Flanders), the young and fresh-voiced Peerce on the threshold of his operatic career, as well as the great Thorborg and Pinza (who had first sung the bass part for Toscanini at La Scala in 1922)-all this is an added luxury. Certainly Olin Downes for the New York Times thought this an extraordinary occasion: it was "the most personal reading" by Toscanini he could remember and, notwithstanding the raw brass, he "took phrases and tempi with exceptional freedom, and it was if, with great strokes, he carved the symphony out of granite-this with a sweep and a passion past the telling." Taken all round, for many this will indeed be the Toscanini Beethoven Ninth of choice: more god than devil.
TOSCANINI CONDUCTS BEETHOVEN: Treasured Pre-War Performances. Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in d, Op. 125, Vina Bovy, Kerstin Thorborg, Jan Peerce, Ezio Pinza, NBC Symphony Orchestra (6 Feb. 1938); Quartet, Op. 135: 2 Movements, NBC S. O. (1 Jan. 1938). Total time: 74:12. Technical reconstruction (2004) by Graham Newton. Analytical notes (2004) by Christopher Dyment. [AAD] UPC # 17685-11352-9.
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