Russian music figured in Toscanini's symphonic programs from his very first concert, when on 20 March 1896 he played the Nutcracker Suite with his orchestra at the Teatro Regio, Turin. A year later, also at Turin, he followed this with, if not the first, certainly one of the earliest Italian performances of the Pathetique Symphony, just five years after its premiere. This and Toscanini's Italian premiere of Eugene Onegin at La Scala in April 1900 served Tchaikovsky's cause in Italy, just as Toscanini's US premiere of Boris Godunov at the Metropolitan in March 1913 did much for Mussorgsky's in the New World. Although he followed this up with performances of Boris at La Scala commencing in 1922, other Russian music largely dropped out of sight. For example, after that early Pathetique Tchaikovsky for long disappeared from his concert repertoire; Toscanini found his music in general too emotionally obvious ("I've never had the desire to conduct this Leoncavallo of the classics," he remarked in a 1934 letter) and some of it, such as the Fifth Symphony, too banal ever to touch. Nevertheless, when symphonic music started to dominate Toscanini's music-making in the late 1920s, Russian works began to reappear with greater frequency; so much so that the works here presented from NBC concerts of 1947-48 (taken from recently discovered broadcast transcription discs, and lovingly reprocessed by Maggi Payne) were all repeatedly programmed by him during the New York Philharmonic-NBC Symphony years and were all set down in studio sessions or released in "official?" RCA issues. For the collector, then, the principal interest in this representative cross-section of Toscanini's selective affinity for Russian music will lie in the observable difference of approach disclosed by these performances from the familiar commercial releases. As each was the product of fresh and prolonged study, so every one of them differed, often substantially, from the other; and in the conductor's last years this sometimes led to a greater breadth and relaxation.
TOSCANINI CONDUCTS MUSIC FROM RUSSIA
CD1 (61:50) Prokofiev: Symphony No. 1 in D, Op. 25, Classical Symphony (from the broadcast of 15 Nov. 1947). Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 in b, Op. 74, Pathetique (15 Nov. 1947). Glinka: Capriccio brillante on the Jota aragonesa for Orchestra, First Spanish Orchestra (from the broadcast of 28 Feb. 1948).
CD2 (76:42) Tchaikovsky: Manfred (symphony) in b for Orchestra [after Byron], Op. 58 (from the broadcast of 28 Feb. 1948). Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition for Piano [orchd. Ravel, 1922] (from the broadcast of 14 Feb. 1948). From recently discovered broadcast transcriptions. In best possible sound. Total Time: 2:18:30 UPC# 017685-11152-5