BEETHOVEN:  Symphony No. 5 in C Minor (rec. Apr. 9, 1933).  Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92 (rec. April 9-10, 1936).
NAXOS 8.110840 (B) (ADD) TT: 76:41

HAYDN:  Symphony No. 101 in D "The Clock."  MOZART:  Symphony No. 35 in D, K. 385 "Haffner." (rec. Mar. 29-30, 1929)
NAXOS 8.110841 (B) (ADD) TT:  62:32

GLUCK: Orfeo ed Euridice: "Dance of the Blessed Spirits" (rec. April 5, 1929).  VERDI:  La Traviata: Preludes to Acts I and III (rec. Mar. 18 & 29, 1929).  ROSSINI:  Overtures to The Barber of Seville (rec. Mar. 21 and Nov. 21, 1929), The Italian Woman in Algiers and Semiramide (rec. Apr. 10, 1936).
NAXOS 8.110842 (B) (ADD) TT:  67:55

BEETHOVEN:  Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67 (rec. live Mar. 4 & 6, 1933).  MENDELSSOHN:  Scherzo and Nocturne from A Midsummer Night's Dream, Op. 61 (rec. Feb. 4, 1926 and March 30, 1929).  DUKAS:  The Sorcerer's Apprentice.  (rec. Mar. 18, 1929).
NAXOS 8.110844 (B) (ADD) TT:  66:44

WAGNER:  Lohengrin: Preludes to Acts I and III.  Götterdämmerung: Dawn and Siegfried's Rhine Journey.  Siegfried Idyll. BRAHMS:  Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Op. 56a.
NAXOS 8.110843 (B) (ADD) TT:  55:24

WAGNER:  Die Meistersinger:  Prelude to Act I (rec. Dec. 8, 1927).  Götterdämmerung:  Siegfried's Funeral Music (rec. Dec. 10, 1927).  Tristan and Isolde:  Prelude to Act I (rec. May 15, 1928).  The Flying Dutchman:  Overture (rec. May 16, 1928).  Tannhäuser:  Overture (Dresden version) (rec. May 17, 1928).  Lohengrin:  Prelude to Act III (rec. Nov. 21, 1929).  Siegfried Idyll (rec. Nov. 21, 1929).
Berlin State Opera Orch/Karl Muck, cond.
NAXOS 8.110858 (B) (ADD) TT:  75:32



The first five CDs listed above are indispensable for the Toscanini collector. These historic performances have all  been issued before in RCA's massive Toscanini Collection issued in 1991 in fine transfers by Ward Marston but these recent transfers by Mark Obert-Thorn are their equal in every way and have two distinct advantages. First is the price, which is budget.  Second, they contain alternate takes of a number of sides which apparently have not been issued on CD before.  There are two additional takes each of the Gluck Dance and the Mendelssohn Scherzo, a second version of the Traviata Act III Prelude, the Barber of Seville Overture, and the Sorcerer's Apprentice.  For the latter, there are two complete performances, one with the first take for side 2, the other with the second.  Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 is heard both in the 1931 Carnegie Hall live performance and the 1933 Carnegie Hall recording.  This issue of Symphony No. 7 is of particular interest as it contains alternate takes of the first movement.  The Haydn (two movements) and Mozart (just the finale) also have alternate takes.  You'll have to do a bit of programming with your CD player to select which of these you wish to hear.  How fortunate we are that these are available! Listening to the Mozart finale reminds me of the famous pirate rehearsal recording of this music in which Toscanini vents his rage on the entire orchestra replaying one or two bars at a time.  But he surely got results, perhaps not exactly what he heard in his mind, for compelling for the listener.

Each album has informative notes by MOT about circumstances of the recordings, Victor's recording process and the Maestro's aversion to making them.  Victor's sound over the decade when these recordings were made varies considerably.  All were recorded in Carnegie Hall with the exception of  the 1926 Mendelssohn recorded in the Carnegie Hall "Chapter Room."  Carnegie Hall has superb acoustics and Victor's engineers achieved variable results.  Considering the remarkable sound heard on Mengelberg's NYPSO Heldenleben recorded in 1928, one might expect Toscanini recordings with the same orchestra after that date would be at least as good - but they aren't. Best are the two Rossini overtures from 1936 - remarkably clear with quite wide dynamic range.  Still all of these performances are surely worth owning, particularly at this very reasonable price.

Karl Muck (1859-1940) was a leading Wagner conductor at the turn of the century. For about thirty years beginning 1901 he conducted Parsifal at Bayreuth, recording major scenes from it 1913-1928, available in a superb transfer on Naxos reviewed on this site - you also might wish to read R.D.'s comments on Muck in this review.  The new Naxos CD offers all of Muck's electrical commercial recordings of Wagner aside from the Parsifal excerpts and an abbreviated "Rhine Journey" which would not fit on this near-capacity (75:43) CD.  Most of these recordings previously were available on APR at full price (in the same review mentioned above), but that did not include this 1929 Siegfried Idyll.  Muck's Wagner recordings always were excellent, well-balanced for their time, and MOT's transfers could not be bettered.  Although the Toscanini CDs are in the Naxos catalog, they are not readily available in the United States - you might have to get them as imports.

Again, hats off to Naxos for a job done to perfection!

R.E.B. (September 2002)