Toscanini/NBC SO: Beethoven Syms No. 9 "Choral" & 1 - FALP 190/191 (2LP box set)
Box VG / LPs / Excellent (LPs pressed in The Netherlands / box printed in France)
This handsome 2LP box set from La Vox de son Maître (FALP 190/191, LPs pressed in The Netherlands, box/booklet printed in France, red/silver semi-circle label) features Arturo Toscanini’s famous account of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor Op. 125 – recorded 31 March and 1 April 1952 at New York’s Carnegie Hall – with the NBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, and soloists Eileen Farrell soprano, Jan Peerce tenor, Nan Merriman mezzo, and Norman Scott baritone. Few recordings have been so eagerly anticipated as was Toscanini’s RCA Ninth, and it retains an elemental power and unity of vision that still outshines many rivals. It is a wonderful tonic to the over expansive and lugubrious versions set down in its wake, and whatever one thinks of Toscanini, his recorded legacy repays close study, and this Ninth an apex in his discography.
Filling out this set is an equally captivating account of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 in C Major Op. 21 – recorded at New York’s Carnegie Hall on 21 December 1951 – a festive, exhilarating performance from first bar to last.
Though the LPs were pressed in The Netherlands, they carry the FALP catalog numbers on the labels (see the image provided). In truth, with their bright silver lettering, they are significantly more attractive than the standard red/gold semi-circle labels. A curious issue, but a very nice one.
Of an RCA CD re-issue of Toscanini’s Ninth, The Gramophone wrote in its May 1990 review:
“[I]n the Ninth Symphony Toscanini achieves great heights. The first movement occasionally finds the octagenarian conductor impatiently rough-riding his basic rhythmic pulse, but the scherzo is tremendously virile, the slow movement exquisitely tender and powerful in turn, and the finale, with a good group of soloists and an excellent chorus, fervent and uplifting.”
And wrote critic John Philips for MusicWeb-International:
“The last disc in the box gives us the Choral, which starts off with each tremolando note being clearly audible (compare this with Furtwangler, who conjured up an impression of wonder by, contrary to the dictates of the score, running these notes together to satisfy his interpretative requirements). The last movement includes the wonderful Robert Shaw Chorale, one of the finest choirs in the world in its day. Often used by Toscanini in his choral and operatic recordings, one can easily hear why this should be so. All parts are clearly evident and the balance between the different voices is managed superbly well. In addition the soloists are all first rate. At the conclusion of the symphony, one feels that all concerned have indeed scaled the highest heights, and must have satisfied Beethoven’s vision.”
Included is a 12-page booklet with extensive notes by Gérard Michel, printed in French only. The striking cover design gracing the box front is uncredited.
The gradations of condition I use are as follows: MINT, Near-Mint, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor.
The condition of the box is VERY GOOD. There is some fraying at the spine and general wear, but that is all. There are no seamsplits, corner breaks, bends, owners' markings, or other defects, and the box remains perfectly solid, bright, and highly attractive – overall, a very good collector's copy.
The condition of the original 12-page booklet is EXCELLENT. There is some discoloration and spotting, but no markings, the pages remain crisp and bright, the binding perfect.
The condition of the 2 LPs is EXCELLENT throughout. Though surfaces are not absolutely silent, really these are fine copies and playback is superb. Those requiring flawless or near-MINT copies are advised to look elsewhere. Overall, these are excellent collector's copies.