Toscanini in Britain

Toscanini in Britain

Christopher Dyment
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 400
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt1r2grb
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    Toscanini in Britain
    Book Description:

    During the 1930s Arturo Toscanini conducted many concerts broadcast by the BBC from London's Queen's Hall, where he also made some unsurpassed recordings. Drawing on newly researched material in British and American archives, Christopher Dyment reveals how the most renowned and influential conductor of the twentieth century, notoriously microphone-shy though he was, came to conduct so frequently in London, a tale replete with unexpected twists, turns and ingenious stratagems. Toscanini's dominating influence on London critics and audiences in the period covered by the narrative, extending through to his final appearances at the Royal Festival Hall in 1952, is copiously documented from contemporary sources. Dyment also presents fresh evidence showing how the remarkable combination of passionate conviction and architectural mastery that characterised Toscanini's conducting was grounded not only in his obsessive study of the score but also in his awareness of performing traditions dating back to the mid-nineteenth century. This book will fascinate those with a particular interest in Toscanini's career and recorded legacy. It is also essential reading for anyone with an interest in the history of conducting and recording in the first half of the twentieth century, set against the vividly evoked backdrop of London's concert scene of the period. This comprehensive study includes both an annotated table of all Toscanini's London concerts and his EMI discography. CHRISTOPHER DYMENT has written extensively about historic conductors since the 1970s, particularly Felix Weingartner and Arturo Toscanini. His first book, on Weingartner, was published in 1976.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-084-2
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. FOREWORD
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Harvey Sachs

    A bunch of concerts and a handful of recordings in the 1930s and two more concerts in 1952: The End.

    Some of us who know a thing or two about Arturo Toscanini have tended until now to think of his relationship with Great Britain in these overly drastic terms. It is true that the 1930s – when Toscanini was in his sixties and early seventies – probably constituted his peak decade as a symphonic conductor, and that the 1952 concerts gave London a chance to hear the eighty-five-year-old Maestro in a moment of musical grace, a year and a half...

  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. xiii-xvii)
    Christopher Dyment

    Arturo Toscanini’s supreme importance in the history of conducting is universally acknowledged. The standard of orchestral playing taken for granted in the twenty-first century owes more to him than to any other single figure; and the stylistic influence, today sometimes questioned, is still pervasive, if often unacknowledged or known only at second hand. That influence, however, is (for better or for worse) a product principally of his later years when he was in charge of the NBC Symphony Orchestra, a radio orchestra of unique stature whose recordings were disseminated worldwide.

    Although Toscanini was recognised as supreme in his art far...

  6. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. xviii-xx)
    Christopher Dyment
  7. ARTURO TOSCANINI – CHRONICLE OF ALIFE, 1867–1957
    (pp. xxi-xxvi)
  8. CHAPTER 1 1900–30: TOWARDS THE PHILHARMONIC TOUR
    (pp. 1-35)

    ‘Get the strongest possible cast and let them sing.’ During his tenure as manager of the Metropolitan Opera House in the 1890s, Maurice Grau’s recipe for presenting opera to the New York public was remarkably successful, especially in his vocally spectacular staging of Wagner’s music dramas. The parade of talent was such that over half a century later the Met’s historian judged that ‘in no other period have so many of the greatest singers of the day been systematically presented to the New York public’.¹ A Tristan with Lillian Nordica and Jean de Reszke was but one highlight; other Wagnerian...

  9. CHAPTER 2 1931–35: THE LONDON MUSIC FESTIVAL 1935
    (pp. 36-54)

    The reform of London’s concert life again stimulated invitations to the great foreign conductors who throughout the 1930s were the principal draw. Walter, Weingartner and Klemperer conducted the LSO in 1930–31; Weingartner and Klemperer returned during the following season. Given Turner’s exalted estimate of Toscanini in 1930 and later in the decade, it is worth noting his views on Klemperer in February 1932, prescient in the light of this conductor’s later prominence: he was ‘the most satisfactory conductor I know of ’ – more satisfying than Furtwängler who had that very week again brought the Berlin Philharmonic to the...

  10. CHAPTER 3 RECORDING THE 1935 CONCERTS
    (pp. 55-68)

    Toscanini’s accommodating attitude on the occasion of his press conference was not in evidence during the parallel efforts to secure commercial recordings of his London concerts. He was aware from the outset that broadcasting the concerts was part and parcel of his bargain with the BBC, but his opposition to making records was adamant and of long standing. Since the series of recordings with the Philharmonic in 1929 (further described in Chapter 12) which, like all his released recordings up to that date, he heartily disliked, he had issued a consistent stream of negatives in response to requests for more....

  11. CHAPTER 4 1936–37: THE LONDON MUSIC FESTIVAL 1937
    (pp. 69-106)

    Without massive persuasion it was unlikely that Toscanini would return to the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Who best could apply the requisite pressure? Boult himself could not be expected to chase the Maestro across Europe; indeed, he could not have maintained his remarkable dual role as Director of Music and Chief Conductor at all without substantial delegation and highly competent assistants. Crucial in the direction and organisation of programmes were Edward Clark, an inspirational and innovative musician with extensive European contacts, and Julian Herbage, whose organisational talent dealt with detailed scheduling and practical aspects of broadcasting requirements. Clark’s departure from the...

  12. CHAPTER 5 THE FIRST HMV RECORDING SESSION
    (pp. 107-111)

    In the ordinary course Toscanini would have left the country on 17 June, the day after the final concert of the 1937 Festival, but two important pieces of business detained him an extra day. Such had been the level of enthusiasm for the Festival and so content was Toscanini with the orchestra that, not only did he agree in principle to a further Festival in 1938, but on the morning of 17 June he was happy to sign an agreement with Mase for two autumn concerts in the orchestra’s forthcoming standard series, to take place in October/November.¹ As he recognised,...

  13. CHAPTER 6 AUTUMN 1937: TWO CHORAL CONCERTS AND MORE RECORDS
    (pp. 112-121)

    On 18 June Toscanini left London with relief for the Isolino where, as we have seen, he received Mase on 29 June. That visit was only one of Mase’s activities at the time in furtherance of the Maestro’s interests in London. He was in contact with the family (principally Carla) to conclude negotiations on behalf of HMV. In his capacity as a member of the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Management Committee, he also sounded her out about the possibility of Toscanini accepting the Society’s Gold Medal ‘without ceremony or fuss’ during his October visit.¹ And he persuaded Toscanini to relax his...

  14. CHAPTER 7 1938: THE LONDON MUSIC FESTIVAL 1938
    (pp. 122-149)

    Soon after Mase contracted Toscanini for the 1938 Festival, he decided that his various interests, including the personal connection forged with the conductor, would justify his pursuing a career as concert promoter and administrator outside the BBC structure. After leaving the corporation late in 1937 he began a prolonged process of co-opting a committee which would plan and direct the following year’s London Music Festival; once in place, the committee duly appointed him Director of the Festival.¹ According to Sir Henry Wood’s memoirs, Mase’s ‘release’ from the corporation had ‘the full blessing of the BBC’;² but while relations between them...

  15. CHAPTER 8 1939: THE LAST LONDON MUSIC FESTIVAL
    (pp. 150-176)

    As early as March 1938 Toscanini proposed to Mase a 1939 BBC SO Beethoven/Brahms cycle;¹ perhaps more realistically, during his 1938 visit he intimated to Boult that he wished to set a seal on his London visits with a complete Beethoven cycle.² Moreover he knew that in the BBC Chorus trained by Leslie Woodgate there was material fit for the ultimate test, the Missa Solemnis. As noted in the preceding chapter, at the Isolino on 30 July 1938 Mase was unsuccessful in gaining Toscanini’s approval for HMV’s concert recordings; but on the same day, in his capacity as Director of...

  16. CHAPTER 9 1940–45: WAR EFFORTS AND BEYOND
    (pp. 177-186)

    Once confined by war to the New World it was inevitable that, although Toscanini took no formal position in any of the various Italian émigré organisations, he should become an active figurehead of Italy in exile. Among other activities he drafted a Declaration published in Life magazine in September 1943 containing proposals for the future governance of Italy, which insisted on the need for the complete territorial integrity of the country and for future negotiations to be conducted with authorities untainted by association with fascism.¹ The Allies later ignored these demands with material consequences for the course of this narrative:...

  17. CHAPTER 10 1946–51: LA SCALA
    (pp. 187-201)

    In the spring of 1946 Toscanini was standing by in New York in readiness for his long-awaited return to Milan. His informant there was Fritz Busch’s son, Hans Peter, then serving with the occupying forces in north Italy and appointed at the war’s end to take charge of all musical activities in the city for the Allied Military Government, including in particular La Scala.¹ One of his noteworthy activities, close to Toscanini’s heart, was soliciting funds for the rebuilding of the theatre with assistance from, among others, the Maestro’s elder daughter, the ‘charming’ Wally; the cable to her father elicited...

  18. CHAPTER 11 1951–52: ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL
    (pp. 202-234)

    For six years after the end of the war London had no purpose-built concert hall and, as noted in Chapter 10, that void caused acute difficulties for those attempting to arrange Toscanini’s abortive visit and recordings in 1946. Plans for a modern hall on the south bank of the Thames were, however, drawn up in the late 1940s as part of a site for a festival to take place in the spring of 1951, named by the sponsoring Labour government the Festival of Britain. Hence the title Royal Festival Hall, which was perpetuated despite the premature demolition of other structures...

  19. CHAPTER 12 THE LONDON RECORDINGS – A STUDY IN STYLE
    (pp. 235-258)

    Toscanini’s extensive legacy of recordings remains, including those made in London during the years 1935–39. The latter have their distinctive qualities, as this chapter attempts to demonstrate. But as Toscanini’s era recedes in time, as living witness vanishes and as judgement relies (sometimes with malice aforethought) upon selective recordings made in his final years, the perception of Toscanini’s special attributes has over succeeding generations undergone a change, and not for the better. Retrospectively some commentators have transmuted the conductor into the very figure Newman and Constant Lambert always, and rightly, insisted he was not – the apostle of ‘objectivism’...

  20. ANNEX A: DISCOGRAPHY OF EMI RECORDINGS 1935–51
    (pp. 259-278)
  21. ANNEX B: THE CONCERTS 1930–52: PROGRAMMES AND RECORDINGS
    (pp. 279-294)
  22. ANNEX C: BRAHMS AND TOSCANINI: AN HISTORICAL EXCURSUS
    (pp. 295-350)
  23. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 351-358)
  24. INDEX
    (pp. 359-373)
  25. Back Matter
    (pp. 374-374)