About this Recording
8.110841 - HAYDN / MOZART: Symphonies (Toscanini) (1929)

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809): Symphony No.101 in D major (The Clock)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791):

Symphony No.35 in D major, K.385 (Haffner)

Arturo Toscanini won himself an unassailable reputation as a conductor, respected and feared by musicians and revered by his public. Born in Parma in 1867, the son of a tailor, he studied the cello, piano and composition at the Parma Conservatory, which he entered at the age of nine. Completing his studies in 1885, he embarked on a career as a cellist and in the following year, during a visit to Brazil, he was able to take charge of a performance of Verdi’s Aida, conducting from memory, as he was always to do and achieving a success that ensured a future career as a conductor, at first pursued in various theatres in Italy. In 1895 he took charge as conductor of the Teatro Regio in Turin, following this with appointment to La Scala, Milan, in 1898. Here his continuing meticulous attention to every detail of performance, against existing traditions, won him praise and hostility.

Toscanini’s period at La Scala was interrupted by tours abroad and work at other houses in Italy. In 1908 he was appointed artistic director at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, where he had a liaison with the singer Geraldine Farrar, before resigning in 1915 to return to war-time Italy. It was only in 1920 that he returned to La Scala, where changes had been made and earlier causes of dissatisfaction removed. There were foreign tours with the orchestra and as great a degree of success as might be achieved in concert repertoire with an opera-house orchestra. It was a realisation of the limitations of such an ensemble and hostility to the régime of Mussolini that led to his resignation once more, in 1929, the year of tours to Berlin and Vienna. He conducted at Bayreuth for two seasons, but his objection to Hitler’s policies of antisemitism in Germany led him to refuse further work in Germany and undertake concerts in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, with the newly formed Palestine Symphony, strengthened by the presence of refugees from Germany.

In 1928 Toscanini had been appointed conductor of the amalgamated New York Symphony and Philharmonic Orchestra, a position he held until 1936 and one that found him, now in his fifties, at the height of his powers. The mid-1930s, among other engagements, brought concerts with the BBC Orchestra in London, the rehearsals for which were vividly described by the principal viola of the orchestra, Bernard Shore (The Orchestra Speaks, London, 1938). Shore writes of Toscanini’s careful attention to detail, his phenomenal memory, his organized and economical use of rehearsal time, his sudden flashes of anger, quickly dissipated, and the respect he inspired among players. He also remarks on Toscanini’s short-sightedness, his use of a mixture of languages, reverting to pure Italian in moments of extreme stress, and, above all, his respect for the music itself, as written.

From 1937 until 1954 Toscanini worked principally with an orchestra created for him in New York, the NBC Orchestra. Many recordings are preserved from this period. He died in New York at the age of 89 in 1957.

The New York Philharmonic Orchestra gave its first concert in 1842, although during the nineteenth century it did not always occupy the place it now holds. It was in the 1920s that the New York Philharmonic Society began to absorb other orchestras, culminating in 1928 in a merger with the New York Symphony, founded in 1878 by Leopold Damrosch. After the merger, the orchestra became known as the Philharmonic-Symphony Society Orchestra, later to assume its present identity as the New York Philharmonic.

Fashions in performance of the Viennese classics have changed over the years, particular in matters of tempo. Haydn’s Clock Symphony, one of the set of six that he wrote for his second visit to London, was first performed at the Hanover Square Rooms on 3rd March 1794 in the second of the season of concerts presented by the violinist-impresario Salomon. The orchestra was presumably of much larger numbers than the chamber-orchestra proportions to which Haydn been accustomed during his many years of service of the Esterházy family at home. Toscanini, conducting the even larger ensemble of a modern symphony orchestra, takes the instruction Adagio very literally in the slow introduction to the first movement, as he does the rapidity of the following Presto. The nickname of the symphony, The Clock, was not Haydn’s but seems to have become current in London by the end of the century. It is derived from the repeated accompanying rhythm of the second movement, here taken as a particularly solid Andante, although later treated with greater delicacy, but suggesting Beethoven as much as Haydn in its dynamic range and tempo, an impression given by the following Minuet and Trio. In the Finale Toscanini’s attention to details of the score is apparent, not least in the moulding of the answering cello figure in the second sentence of the movement. Alternative takes of the 1929 recording provide a complete version of the extant recordings from the sessions.

Mozart was busy in the summer of 1782 with his first significant stage work for Vienna, the Singspiel Die Entführung aus dem Serail. He had broken with his and his father’s patron, the Archbishop of Salzburg, in the previous year, and now marriage, for which he had not sought his father’s previous consent, was imminent. Back in Salzburg music was demanded for the celebration of the ennoblement of his contemporary Sigmund Haffner. In reply Mozart pleaded the pressure of work, as he sought to make use of the success of his opera by issuing an arrangement for wind-band, before others seized the opportunity and took the consequent profit. He was only able to provide the necessary celebratory symphony movement by movement, sending the first Allegro on 27th July, as he asked his father to agree to his marriage. This took place on 4th August, before a reply to his request could be received.

Toscanini’s performance of the Haffner Symphony is very much of its period. Particularly noticeable, however, is the treatment of seemingly insignificant inner parts, the singing tone of the first violin melody of the slow movement, and the fine balance of the bassoon accompaniment to what follows. The Minuet might seem more portentously monumental than now would be expected, but any undue weight here is counterbalanced by the brilliance of the Finale.

Keith Anderson

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