Toscanini?s last performance of Falstaff in two NBC broadcast concerts of April 1 and 8, 1950, is the one whose rehearsals are documented here. Falstaff was the opera Toscanini performed more frequently than any other and, as he often remarked to friends in conversation, it was the one he found "most beautiful" of all.
What this album presents, then, is the fruit of this century?s greatest conductor?s fifty-six-year engagement with what is surely one of the handful of the world?s very greatest operas. The commercially issued recording of the broadcast performances of April 1950 was long available, on RCA set 60326-2-RG; what we have here is a selection from the surviving recordings of Toscanini?s rehearsals for the first of those two broadcasts.
During his lifetime and even after, Toscanini?s rehearsals were famous, but usually for the wrong reasons. What one mainly heard about were the ferocious displays of temper, the monumental blowups that often reduced singers to tears and orchestra players to grumbling resentment. Several snippets from these rehearsals have even become well-known collector?s items: The one where he smashes his watch, the one where he screams "Put something! Put your blood!" And the one where, after an outburst of rage, he confesses "I do not enjoy to conduct. I hate to conduct", and then reassures his startled orchestra: "I am not crazy, I am sensitive."
But all the rages, the breaking of batons (and even watches), the hoarsely bellowed insults and curses — these were beside the point, as his more intelligent orchestra players recognized. In fact, most of the time, at most rehearsals, Toscanini was wonderfully efficient and productive, as we can see from extended excerpts like the ones in this set.
When this set first appeared, Morton H. Frank wrote in Fanfare: "What is to be heard here is the work of a consummate professional who knows how to get the most done in the least time… and of a conductor who displays patience and total involvement with the music…."
TOSCANINI CONDUCTS VERDI: FALSTAFF?Rehearsals. (March 1950) Alice Ford: Herva Nelli, sop; Nanetta: Teresa Stich-Radall, sop.; Mistress Page: Nan Merriman, mezzo; Falstaff: Guiseppe Valdengo, barit.; Dame Quickly: Cloe Elmo, mezzo; Ford : Frank Guarrera, barit.; and Pistol: Norman Scott, bass. Originally issued in 1986 on CD-248; newly restored by Graham Newton (2003).
CD No. 1 – 61:51; CD No. 2 – 63:17. AAD. UPC # 0-17685-42482-3.