Toscanini/NBC SO: Brahms Symphony No. 1 Op. 68 (rec. 1951) - HMV ALP 1012
Jacket: EX / Vinyl: VG / UK pressing
This beautiful and rare gatefold LP from His Master’s Voice (ALP 1012, English EMI pressing, red/gold label, mono) features Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra’s commanding account of Brahms’s Symphony No. 1 in C minor Op. 68, recorded in the spacious acoustics of Carnegie Hall, New York, on 3 November 1951, a landmark in the Brahms discography.
Of RCA’s Gold Seal CD re-issue of this performance, the eminent critic Alan Sanders wrote in his review for the May 1990 issue of The Gramophone:
“An examination of Toscanini's concert repertoire reveals a bias in favour of late nineteenthcentury music. This is not surprising, since he grew up in the era of Verdi, Wagner and Brahms. His early career was spent mainly in the opera house, but from the first his concerts included music by Brahms, a composer always close to his heart. Toscanini served Brahms faithfully until the end of his career, always bringing a clear, singing, Italianate quality to his music which usually some how seemed just right, and not at odds with the composer's Teutonic soul….
“I have left consideration of Symphonies Nos. 1, 2 and 4 till last. Each of these readings sets a standard of performance and interpretation which has seldom been equalled on record. A sense of great urgency and high drama informs the opening of the First Symphony, and in the main Allegro section Toscanini conducts with tremendous expressive force and conviction, a superlative sense of line and a masterly use of rubato. The music comes to life in an extraordinarily vibrant, totally compelling fashion, yet it is still a balanced, objective reading. In the Andante Toscanini inspires the most exquisitely lyrical playing and conveys a rare feeling of atmosphere and refined, tender emotion. The third movement is highly expressive too, typically clear and clean in execution, and in the finale Toscanini's power and eloquence lead one on inexorably to a majestically expressed, overwhelming coda.”
There are insightful liner notes on the reverse side of the jacket by Scott Goddard, provided in English only. The striking cover design is uncredited.