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Toscanini, Arturo

Arturo Toscanini

Conductor

Began Conducting at 19

Spoke Out Against Fascism

The Maestro

Selected discography

Sources

For more than half a century, Arturo Toscanini was one of the worlds most respected conductors, a musical powerhouse whose performances packed orchestra hallsand filled the radio wavesin every major city in the United States. Toscanini dominated the classical music world, leading the debut performances of numerous important operas and symphonies. In a time when the majority of Americans craved popular music and novel trends, Toscanini did more than any other artist to increase the audience for classical symphonies and operatic works. A New York Times reporter noted that the fiery conductor represented absolute, uncompromising integrity. He strove earnestly to realize as exactly as possible the composers intentions as printed in the musical score. To achieve perfection he drove musicians relentlessly, himself hardest of all.

Toscanini conducted entirely from memory. Nearsighted from childhood, he memorized hundreds of intricate operas, symphonies, and concertos and thenin performance and often in rehearsals as wellled without ever consulting the score. The temperamental former cellist kept a full schedule of touring, recording, and performing until well into his eighties, finally retiring just three years before his death. The New York Times praised Toscanini for his judgment, experience, vast musical knowledge, uncompromising standards and the touch of incandescent brilliance he infused into every performance he conducted.

Began Conducting at 19

Toscanini was born in 1867 and grew up in Parma, Italy. His father was a tailor, and as a youth Arturo, too, wanted to make clothes. His ambitions changed at the age of nine when he began cello lessons at the Parma Conservatory of Music. He was fascinated by the instrument and by classical music in general. Within two years he won a full scholarship to the conservatory, where he was known to sell his lunch in order to buy more sheet music.

After graduating from the conservatory in 1885, Toscanini immediately found work with travelling orchestras in Italy. In 1886 he joined a company that journeyed to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to stage some operas. On that particular trip the company conductor one day refused to lead a performance. The musicians persuaded Toscanini to step in as conductorhis penchant for memorizing whole scores had already marked him as extraordinary. Toscanini reluctantly accepted the assignment and, with no prior preparation, made his conducting debut on June 25, 1886. He was 19 at the time.

Word soon spread in Italy of the young cellist who

For the Record

Born March 25, 1867, in Parma, Italy; died of complications from a stroke, January 16, 1957, in Riverdale, the Bronx, NY; son of Claudio and Paola (Montani) Toscanini; married Carla dei Martini, 1897; children: Walter, Wally, Wanda. Education: Studied music at Parma Conservatory of Music, 1876-85.

Cellist with touring orchestras in Italy, 1885-87; conductor of orchestras in Italy, 1887-1908; conductor of Metropolitan Opera orchestra, New York City, 1908-15; conductor in Italy, 1915-26; conductor of New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra, 1926-36; conductor of Palestine Symphony Orchestra, 1936; conductor of NBC Symphony Orchestra, 1937-54; guest conductor of numerous symphony orchestras in U.S. and Europe. Made numerous recordings on RCA Victor label.

conducted whole operas from memory. Toscanini found himself invited to the podium on numerous occasions with local opera companies, and he conducted the world premieres of Ruggiero Leoncavallos Pagliacci in 1892 and Giacomo Puccinis La Boheme in 1896. Both productions were highly successful, and the young musician was invited to conduct at La Scala in MilanItalys most important opera house. By 1898 Toscanini was named chief conductor and artistic director at La Scala, and he became well known there for introducing new operas and symphonic works. He also gained a reputation for his unorthodox attitudes; he was dismissed in 1903 for refusing to permit encores.

Toscanini brought his talents to America in 1908 as conductor for the Metropolitan Opera. He proved quite popular in New York Cityas a New York Times contributor put it, his success was instantaneous one triumph after another. After opening with Verdis Aida on November 16, 1908, Toscanini stayed with the Metropolitan Opera for seven seasons. He returned to Italy at the outbreak of World War I to conduct benefit performances for the countrys soldiers. At the end of the war, he received a decoration for bravery for leading an army band in the midst of a battle between the Italians and the Austrians.

After World War I Toscanini returned to America with an orchestra that he had engaged himself. It was with this orchestra that he made his first recordings on the Victor label in 1921. Some five years later he accepted the post of conductor with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. That group merged with the New York Symphony Society in 1928 as the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra. Toscanini was its principal conductor for ten years. He also found time to serve as a guest conductor at festivals and concerts in Germany, France, Austria, and London.

Spoke Out Against Fascism

Never one to shun politics, Toscanini was appalled by the fascist movement in Italy. He was an outspoken opponent of the fascists and was once badly beaten during a concert appearance when he refused to conduct the fascist anthem. He also severed ties with the Wagner festival at Bayreuth, Germany, and the Salzburg festival in Austria when Adolf Hitler took power. Toscanini spent the years of World War II in America, at the helm of the orchestra that he would lead for the rest of his life.

In 1937 Toscanini accepted a position as director of the newly formed National Broadcasting Company (NBC) Symphony Orchestra. The NBC Symphony was the first classical orchestra ever commissioned and subsidized by a broadcasting company. Toscanini was paid a then-fabulous salary of $40,000 as its conductor.

Some of the new symphony orchestras performances were held at Radio City Music Hall, and most were broadcast nationwide on radio. This exposure increased Toscaninis popularity immensely. When he led the NBC Symphony Orchestra on a transcontinental trip in 1950, he was hailed by enthusiastic fans in major metropolitan areas and small towns alike. Seldom in the history of America had a musician received such warm and widespread veneration, wrote a New York Times reporter.

The Maestro

Toscanini worked tirelessly until he was 87 years old. During his lastyears with the NBC Symphony Orchestra he engaged in a hectic schedule of recording, making some 30 albums with RCA Victor, including all nine of Beethovens symphonies and the four symphonies by Brahms. The energetic conductor formally retired on April 4, 1954, immediately following a concert at Carnegie Hall. He died three years later following a severe stroke, just months before his ninetieth birthday.

In his day Toscanini was treated with an awe and reverence reserved for a select few. More than once the New York police had to barricade his concerts to keep out throngs of fans. Musicians and singers endured his temperamental outbursts, and audiences respected his eccentric notions about applause and encores. Throughout his career Toscanini was affectionately known as The Maestro. His passing was mourned by political leaders and classical musicians all over the world.

Responding to the conductors death on January 17, 1957, David M. Keiser, then president of the New York Philharmonic-Symphony, told the New York Times that Toscanini, more than any other person in our time, has symbolized the supreme peak in musical perfection. New York Times correspondent Olin Downes offered a similar sentiment, writing of Toscanini: There has never been a more gallant and intrepid champion of great music, or a spirit that flamed higher, or a nobler defender of the faith.

Selected discography

Toscanini and the NBC Symphony, Melogram, 1989.

Toscanini at La Scala, SRO, 1993.

Toscanini Conducts Music by His Contemporaries, dellArte, 1993.

The Toscanini Collection, 71 volumes, RCA, 1994.

Toscanini and the Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra: Great Recordings 1926-1936, 3 volumes, Pearl 3.

Sources

American Record Guide, September/October 1988; September/October 1990.

Musical America, November 1989; July 1990.

New York Times, April 5, 1954; January 15, 1957.

New York Times Magazine, November 8, 1953; December 27, 1953.

Anne Janette Johnson

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Arturo Toscanini

Arturo Toscanini

The Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957) was the most famous and influential conductor of the first half of the 20th century.

Arturo Toscanini was born on March 25, 1867, in Parma, Italy, the son of a tailor. When Arturo showed musical tendencies, he was sent to the local conservatory, where he spent the next 9 years, devoting himself entirely to music. He graduated in 1885 with a first prize in cello and was immediately engaged to play in the orchestra at the Reggia, Parma's famous opera house. During the following summer he joined an orchestra that went to Brazil to play a season of Italian opera. At one performance the regular conductor was unable to appear. The 19-year-old cellist took over and, without a rehearsal, conducted Aida from memory, thus beginning one of the musical world's most illustrious careers.

On returning to Italy, Toscanini was in great demand as an opera conductor. He conducted the first performances of Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci and Puccini's La Bohème. By the time he was 30, he was acknowledged to be the best opera conductor in Italy, and he was appointed principal conductor at La Scala in Milan, Italy's leading opera house. There, with his notorious temper and keen musicianship, he imposed a high performance standard on both singers and orchestra. He also disciplined the audience by refusing to allow the traditional encores that destroyed the musical continuity of the operas. He conducted at La Scala from 1898 to 1903 and again from 1906 to 1908, when he resigned to become a conductor with the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York City.

Toscanini returned to Italy in 1915 and to La Scala when it reopened after World War I. The growth of fascism and Mussolini's dictatorship made it impossible for Toscanini to remain; in 1928 he became conductor of the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, a post he held until 1936. His harsh discipline and uncompromising musical standards made the Philharmonic one of the world's greatest orchestras.

During these years Toscanini also conducted opera at the famous European music festivals at Salzburg and Bayreuth. In 1937 he became conductor of the National Broadcasting Company Orchestra. This orchestra's broadcast concerts and recordings brought his performances to millions of listeners. He died in New York City on Jan. 16, 1957.

At the time Toscanini started to conduct, late-19th-century performance ideals were prevalent and conductors and performers thought it was their right and duty to "express themselves" in the music they played. Great liberties in tempi and dynamics were taken, and the score indications were often ignored. Toscanini vigorously opposed this approach, believing that performers should meticulously follow the scores and play every note exactly as written at the precise degree of loudness called for by the composer. He expected his musicians to show as much devotion toward the score and energy in carrying out its directions as he did. If they failed, he was merciless in his criticism.

Toscanini was one of the first to conduct without a score. His visual memory was phenomenal, and he could make minute corrections, referring to exact measures, without looking at the score. This skill was developed partly as a matter of necessity, because he was so nearsighted that he could not read a score at normal distance. He also had a marvelously acute ear, and there are many instances of his hearing a false note in a single instrument, even with the full orchestra playing.

Further Reading

Among the best books on Toscanini are David Ewen, The Story of Arturo Toscanini (1951; rev. ed. 1966); Howard Taubman, The Maestro: The Life of Arturo Toscanini (1951); and Samuel Chotzinoff, Toscanini: An Intimate Portrait (1956). Two books that contain analyses of his interpretations and comparisons of his recordings are Robert C. Marsh, Toscanini and the Art of Orchestral Performance (1956), and Spike Hughes, The Toscanini Legacy (1959). □

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Toscanini, Arturo

Toscanini, Arturo (b Parma, 1867; d NY, 1957). It. conductor and cellist. Entered Parma Cons. 1876, studying vc. and comp. Engaged as cellist in opera orch. for S. American tour, 1886 and in Rio de Janeiro replaced regular cond., conducting Aida from memory. In It. later that year cond. Catalani's Edmea in Turin. Played vc. in f.p. of Otello, Milan 1887. Cond. opera in various It. cities. Cond. f.p. of Pagliacci in Milan (Teatro dal Verme), 1892, f.p. of La bohème, Turin 1896. Cond. f.ps. in Italy of Götterdämmerung, Turin 1895, and of Siegfried, Milan 1899. Début as sym. cond. Turin 1896 with municipal orch.; opera début at La Scala 1898 in Die Meistersinger as prin. cond. under management of Gatti-Casazza. Stayed till 1903, resigning after demonstration when he refused to allow ten. an encore in a Verdi opera. Returned 1906–8. Went to NY Met with Gatti-Casazza 1908, making début in Aida. Cond. f.p. of La fanciulla del West 1910, and f.ps. in USA of several operas, incl. Boris Godunov (1913). Cond. Verdi's Requiem at Met 1909 and Beethoven's 9th Sym. there 1913. Returned to It. 1915 and again became chief cond. at La Scala 1921–9, one of its golden periods. Cond. f.p. Turandot, 1926. Friction with Fascists led to his departure. Cond. part of NYPO seasons 1926–8 (orch. becoming Phil.-Sym. Orch. of NY, 1928), prin. cond. 1928–36. Took orch. on European tour 1930. Cond. at Bayreuth 1930 and 1931, at Salzburg 1934–7 (famous perfs. of Falstaff, Fidelio, and Die Meister-singer). Début with Vienna PO 1933. Refused to cond. in Ger., It., and Austria under Nazi and Fascist régimes. Cond. inaugural concerts of Palestine SO (now Israel PO), 1936. NBC formed new orch. in NY for him which he cond. 1937–54, giving public concerts and many famous concert perfs. of operas. Guest cond. in London of BBC SO 1935 and 1937–9, with whom he recorded Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, 1938, and of Philharmonia Orch. 1952 in Brahms series. Returned to La Scala 1946, conducting a concert of It. operatic music and, in subsequent years, several other concerts. Last appearance as cond. NY June 1954. Encouraged Amer. composers, especially Barber and Hanson. Always cond. from memory, but not only because he was extremely short-sighted. Tyrannized orchs., but drilled them to remarkable standards. Regarded by many Amer. critics as beyond criticism, but, like all conds., had his limitations, far outweighed in his case by virtues of clarity, expressiveness, and ens. Outstanding in It. opera, but also in Wagner and in a limited range of composers of symphonic mus. from Haydn to his own day.

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Toscanini, Arturo

Arturo Toscanini (ärtōō´rō tōskänē´nē), 1867–1957, Italian conductor, internationally recognized as one of the world's great conductors. He studied cello at the Parma Conservatory, from which he graduated in 1885. After performing as a cellist with various minor orchestras in Italy, he went to Rio de Janeiro in 1886 to play in the opera orchestra there. Substituting as conductor, he demonstrated his ability to elicit an electrifying performance from the musicians, and he was engaged for the rest of the season.

Toscanini returned to Italy the next season (1886–87), and there subsequently conducted the premieres of Leoncavallo's Pagliacci (1892) and Puccini's La Bohème (1896) and the Italian premiere of Wagner's Götterdämmerung (1895). In 1898, Toscanini was appointed chief conductor and artistic director at La Scala, Milan, where he presented many new operas and the Italian premieres of many others, including Wagner's Die Meistersinger (1898) and Siegfried (1899).

From 1908 to 1914 he conducted at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City, where he gave American premieres of Puccini's Girl of the Golden West (1910), Wolf-Ferrari's Le donne curiose (1912), and other works. Toscanini returned to Italy during World War I. With the reorganized La Scala Orchestra he toured (1920–21) Europe and the United States and was artistic director of La Scala from 1921 to 1929. Upon his return to the United States, he conducted the New York Philharmonic from 1928 to 1936 and the NBC Symphony Orchestra, which was formed for him, from 1937. His other important engagements included the Bayreuth Festivals (1930, 1931), of which he was the first non-German conductor, the Salzburg Festivals (1934–36), and the Lucerne Festivals (1937–39). In 1936 he conducted the inaugural concert of the Palestine Symphony Orchestra in Tel Aviv. Consistently antifascist, he refused several times to appear in fascist countries. In 1954 he retired as conductor of the NBC Symphony Orchestra.

Toscanini commanded perfection from his orchestras and instilled them with remarkable energy. A tempestuous personality, he was nevertheless greatly respected by performers and was widely emulated by conductors. His artistry is preserved in recordings, notably of the symphonies of Beethoven and works by Brahms, Wagner, Verdi, and many others.

See B. H. Haggin, Conversations with Toscanini (1959); letters ed. by H. Sachs (2002); biographies by H. H. Taubman (1950), S. Chotzinoff (1956), D. Ewen (rev. ed. 1960), B. H. Haggin (1967), and H. Sachs (1978); studies by R. C. Marsh (1956) and P. C. Hughes (2d enl. ed. 1970), and H. Sachs (1991).

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Toscanini, Arturo

Toscanini, Arturo (1867–1957) Italian conductor. He was musical director (1898–1903, 1906–08) at La Scala, Milan, before becoming conductor (1908–21) of the Metropolitan Opera, New York. Toscanani conducted the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (1928–36). In 1937 he founded the NBC Symphony Orchestra in New York. Toscanini returned to La Scala (1921–29), where he premiered Puccini's Turnadot (1926).

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