# Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
# Conductor: Arturo Toscanini
# Orchestra: New York Philharmonic
# Vinyl (1936 / 1981)
# Number of Discs: 1
# Format: Flac
# DR Analysis: DR 14
# Label: Franklin Mint Record Society – Record 72 of 100
# Size: 663MB (24/96) + 164MB (16/44.1)
# Recovery: 5%
# Scan: yes
# Server: FF, FP
If ever there has been a quintessential musical expression of sheer energy, it is in Beethoven’s unflaggingly dynamic Seventh Symphony. And among all its famous interpreters, surely no one has matched the extraordinary, always tautly controlled drive of Arturo Toscanini at the height of his powers in 1936.
As always, if anyone has requests for other titles in this set, please add them to the comments or PM me directly.
As the critic Richard Osborne has said, this is the ‘locus classicus’ for Beethoven 7. Toscanini in April 1936 was still at his outstanding best with total control over a marvellous orchestra formed from the fusion of the Philharmonic and Symphony Orchestras in the City. The orchestra follows Toscanini with immaculate precision and highlights of the performance are the wonderfully controlled and shaped Allegretto movement performed at the indicated tempo and not as an Andante as generally happened in the period. Equally, the final movement is held together at a strict tempo which does not vary – the music as written grows louder but the best effect is lost if, as usually happens, the tempo increases with the decibels. Any questioning of the performance is entirely down to Toscanini’s view of the music in comparison with other conductors and nothing to do with the orchestra following his lead.
The possible criticisms are:
1. Is the Poco Sostenuto introduction to the first movement fast enough? Actually there are two speeds, depending on which pressing is transferred. Once the faster original master had worn out through repeated use (and high sales!) a slower take was used. But both tempi are not far from the norm in this section and the only question I have is whether Weingartner’s faster tempo, described in his writings and used in his recordings of the symphony in 1923, 1927 and February 1936, is actually more effective.
2. Is the Vivace section of the first movement over-driven? Possibly yes as it is rather faster than usual but nevertheless exciting because it is so well-played.
3. Are the trio sections of the third movement too fast? Almost certainly yes because no other conductor I am aware of has conducted them at this speed! Toscanini’s justification (and he was Italian) was that the marking ‘Assai memno presto’ means a bit less quick than the scherzo sections and so still quite fast. The most authoritative alternative view, outside of mere performance, came from Klemperer in a conversations book where he totally disagreed with his colleague. He believed that the tune of the trio was based on an old Austrian pilgrims’ hymn which must of its nature be stately rather than rattled off. I agree with Klemperer.
4. Is the Allegro con brio of the final movement quick enough? That sounds odd in relation to Toscanini but we are dealing in 1936 with his best phase when not everything that he did was a race for the line. Granted that the tempo selected is well held I do feel that Toscanini was possibly being too cautious here although the faster the tempo the more difficult it is to hold. The example I quote of a faster tempo successfully held to very good effect is the 1927 Weingartner which is very fast indeed and very exciting. Weingartner was not able to repeat this in February 1936 where his tempo is slower and not fully maintained. A good modern example of holding tempo fairly well is the oft-cited Carlos Kleiber recording. Karajan in all of his versions that I have heard seems to speed up considerably.
But even after all this criticism I have great affection for this Toscanini 7. There is actually a recording extant of the same conductor in the same work with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1935 from a live broadcast in the Queen’s Hall, London, razed to the ground during the War and never rebuilt. That is also from the ‘right period’ and very good but the New York Performance perfected under studio conditions and with the conductor’s usual orchestra is generally considered to have the edge. – Philip Sorensen, amazon.com
01 – I. Poco sostenuto: Vivace
02 – II. Allegretto
03 – III. Presto meno assai; Presto
04 – IV. Allegro con brio
Recorded April 9 & 10, 1936 at Carnegie Hall
Originally part of the Victor Musical Masterpiece series
Additional info can be found here.
You can see a listing of the entire Franklin Mint set here.
All vinyl is cleaned on a VPI 16.5
Technics SL1200-MK5 (modified)
– Rega RB300 arm with RB700 wiring
– Michell Tecnoweight
– SoundSupports armboard
– Trans-Fi Audio Reso-Mat
Shure V15VxMR (with Jico stylus)
SimAudio Moon 110LP preamp
Native Instruments Audio4DJ USB interface
Processing: Sound Forge 10, ClickRepair (manual mode only), iZotope RX2
Note: This is an unfolded mono rip. Feel free to fold it yourself if you want. Also, as this was originally recorded in 1936 and released on a 78rpm shellac record, you will hear surface noise, etc, while listening. Pops/clicks in the new vinyl were removed, but various anomalies in the source material were not “fixed” unless I could do so without damaging the music.
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