Toscanini was probably the most dominant maestro the world has ever known. Wherever his presence was felt, whether it be La Scala in Italy, The Met, Philadelphia, or NYP, it lingered even after he left. There have been many stories of when Toscanini left, not only did the quality of the performances diminish, but the respect of the musicians toward his "replacement." Granted it wasn't intentional, but rather a general feeling of incompetence in the new conductor in light of the old. When Toscanini would switch with Stokowski for guest conducting stints between Philadelphia and NYP, utmost respect was exhibited toward Toscanini in Philly, while in New York, the musicians resented Stokowski's different, although masterful and extraordinary, interpretations and style.
This reissue of Beethoven's last four great symphonies before the monumental ninth are among Toscanini's best. The fifth symphony is crisp and clean, the trademark Toscanini style (everyone talks about Stokowski's "Philadelphia Sound" or rather "Stokowski Sound," but what about the "Toscanini Sound?"). It is probably not the best of his numerous Symph. 5 recordings, but it is still very good. The climactic section in the coda leading to the four note heavy segment is hair-raising (the descending eigth note line in the violins into the driving four note phrases). His tempos are superb and closer to the proper tempo as compared to most maestri of the day. The second movement is quite lilting, lyrical, yet with an air of majesty and nobility. The third movement scherzo continues the sound of majesty and the transition into the finale is not only powerful, but right on target to Beethoven's original tempo marking (from 96 to 84). The Seventh is a treasure, like always, but the trumpet, from time to time, particularly in the fourth movement, comes out a little too much more than it should (I imagine it an engineering fault -- Toscanini would never have permitted an overzealous trumpet). The Finale of the seventh is poweful and triumphant, and again, follows Beethoven's tempo (It seems as if in the recapitulation, 3 or so minutes into the movement, the sound seems to become STEREO. It's quite amazing the sound quality change). Even the second movement, which is still a little under Beethoven's tempo, is faster than was accepted in Toscanini's time...it was Toscanini's relentless servitude to the composer to follow the score to the letter and/or help (not re-write) the composer's intentions see light.
It's a recording worth buying, but for the best recording of the Seventh Symphony, turn to his 1936 NYP recording...it is spectacular, particular the last movement. Still, this recording was good enough for Toscanini (as he had the final approval), and is a superior recording to many of the old, and even new school of conducting and conductors. Germans play German music right? Furtwangler, Karajan, Klemperer, Bohm? No! The Italian Toscanini.