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Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1-4

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Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Symphony No. 1 In CMaj, Op. 21: Adagio molto - Allegro con brio
  2. Symphony No. 1 In CMaj, Op. 21: Andante cantabile con moto
  3. Symphony No. 1 In CMaj, Op. 21: Menuetto: Allegro molto e vivace
  4. Symphony No. 1 In CMaj, Op. 21: Adagio - Allegro molto e vivace
  5. Symphony No. 2 In DMaj, Op. 36: Adagio molto - Allegro con brio
  6. Symphony No. 2 In DMaj, Op. 36: Larghetto
  7. Symphony No. 2 In DMaj, Op. 36: Scherzo - Trio
  8. Symphony No. 2 In DMaj, Op. 36: Allegro molto
  9. Egmont Overture, Op. 84

Disc: 2

  1. Symphony No. 3 In E-Flat Maj. Op 55 'Eroica': Allegro con brio
  2. Symphony No. 3 In E-Flat Maj. Op 55 'Eroica': Marcia funebre: Adagio assai
  3. Symphony No. 3 In E-Flat Maj. Op 55 'Eroica': Scherzo: Allegro vivace - Trio
  4. Symphony No. 3 In E-Flat Maj. Op 55 'Eroica': Finale: Allegro molto - Poco andante - Presto
  5. Symphony No. 4 In B-Flat Maj, Op. 60: Adagio - Allegro Vivace
  6. Symphony No. 4 In B-Flat Maj, Op. 60: Adagio
  7. Menuetto: Allegro vivace
  8. Symphony No. 4 In B-Flat Maj, Op. 60: Allegro ma non troppo

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Amazon.com: HASH(0x929e6450) out of 5 stars 11 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91e985d0) out of 5 stars Beethoven's & Toscanini's Genius in Greatly Improved Sound 14 July 2001
By Hank Drake - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I was skeptical when these new CDs were issued. My thoughts were that the early 1990s Complete Toscanini reissue was probably the best that could be humanly done to restore the very pinched and nasal sounding originals. Since I had already bought half of that set, I wasn't about to spend more of my hard-earned money on a marginally improved RE-reissue.
I was wrong. In 1997, RCA totally reorganized and inventoried its massive vaults, which had been in disarray for decades. As a result, many original sources which had been declared "lost" were now "found." This new remastering is strikingly improved sonically over all earlier issues. Utilizing the best technology now available, RCA has also done the right thing by hiring a musician--conductor Ed Houser--rather than whiz-bang technicians to supervise the remastering. The NBC Symphony Orchestra now sounds better than ever before, with greater clarity, smoother strings, fuller winds, and less blotting out during fortissimos.
Perhaps no conductor of the 20th Century has been as misunderstood as Arturo Toscanini, as evidenced by the critical backlash with which he was assailed in the years after his death. That criticism was partly in reaction to the equally unbalanced adulation heaped upon him during his lifetime. I remember once mentioning to an acquaintance my admiration for Toscanini's Beethoven and Brahms, and he shot back, "He conducts everything too fast!" In fact, in comparison with other recordings and broadcasts of his era, Toscanini's conducting was not generally faster than average. In relation to TODAY'S phlegmatic tempos, however, Toscanini's pacing is definitely brisk. But what most people are hearing as fast is, in fact, Toscanini's characteristic rhythmic vitality and, occasionally, drive, which brings the faster movements to sparkling life. Likewise, the slow movements are never dragged, and glow with Italianate warmth.
It is worth noting that, for this issue, RCA has replaced the 1949 studio recording of the "Eroica" with Toscanini's more dynamic 1953 live performance. RCA does not credit the liner notes, but they are reprints of Mortimer H. Frank's excellent notes originally written for the early 1990s CD release.
RCA has so far only released Toscanini's core repertoire with the NBC Symphony--but they are more than welcome additions to the catalogue. The Maestro's recordings with the New York Philharmonic, and The Philadelphia Orchestra should also be remastered, post-haste. Then, RCA, which has given us magnificent reissues of Kapell and Rubinstein, should get to work and replace their botched Vladimir Horowitz reissue from the 1990s, using this magnificent Toscanini reissue as a template.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91e98624) out of 5 stars Commanding and Noble 11 July 2005
By Sator - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I would say that these recordings of the first four symphonies represent the finest example of why Toscanini was held in such awe in America during his time. You can really understand why the whole of America stopped to listen to him and why he outdid the baseball and football in the radio ratings when he conducted on NBC radio.

I must admit I have always been a Furtw?ngler follower when it comes to Beethoven and it took me a while before I could warm at all to Toscanini's approach. In fact it comes as a surprise to me to find myself writing such a glowing review of these recordings when I was once so vehemently anti-Toscanini. I find that with Toscanini that his understanding of Beethoven's musical language is profoundest in the earlier symphonies whereas Furtw?ngler is profoundest in the later symphonies (from the fifth onwards). Above all Toscanini's approach to the symphony he conducted the most, the Eroica, is masterly. In fact I think this particular live NBC performance is the finest Eroica I have yet to hear - vastly superior to the sadly overdriven studio NBC recording that is so unflattering to this conductor's memory. The proximity to Beethoven's marked metronome markings is, I feel in this case, to be a great strength in the Eroica. Toscanini's brazen fast tempi are brought off with total conviction matched with a powerful grasp of the work's structure - an understanding that seems to slip after from about the fifth symphony onwards.

Other beautiful performances here include the first symphony. I must confess that I really do like Toscanini's approach. It seems to be chiselled out of marble and yet has a lovely, sunny Italianate lyricism. The second is almost as good but come the fourth things seem to be gradually slipping away from Toscanini as Beethoven moves on from the models left for him by Haydn and Mozart - with it Beethoven seems to leave Toscanini behind too. The approach is still - if only barely - valid for the fourth, but it sits just so slightly uncomfortably. From there onwards Toscanini's command of Beethovian rhetoric fades into what can seem like bombast with the later symphonies - although he still has his moments of brilliance. In fact Toscanini himself said of the 9th symphony that "I do not understand this music".

These are wonderful and essential recordings. They are also documents of a wonderful time in American history when people young and old still held great maestros like Toscanini in awe - in a fashion that not even rock stars can hope to emulate today. The fullness of the recorded sound will come as a surprise to many. In fact there are sadly plenty of so called 'digital stereo recordings' that sound FAR worse than this.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x94d0a7a4) out of 5 stars Toscanini - Beethoven: The magic reveiled..... 19 April 2003
By Ytzan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I was very reluctant to buy this set. First because of the mono sound and then because of Toscanini's fast tempos that in my mind would harm the music. Well, I was wrong. The sound is not bad at all for its' age and the fast tempos bring a new vitality to the music. A winner!!!!
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91e988ac) out of 5 stars Back to the bad old sonics--what happened? 13 Dec. 2005
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
After the glorious remastering of Toscanini's Verdi Requiem and Falstaff, I assumed we were out of the woods. But these early Beethoven symphonies (#1-4) are in snarly, gnarly sound. A great deal depends on what the engineers have to work with, of course. Even so, each performance is a trial sonically, with the best being the Fourth and Second, while the Eroica comes out worst. These readings are from 1949-53, yet the Egmont Over., which sounds thin and screechy, is the latest. All were done in Carnegie Hall, not the notorious Studio 8-H, but on these discs there's not much hint of warm hall acoustics.

For those who can withstand the glaring trumpets, crunchy climaxes, and wiry violins, I'm not sure there are great performances to be heard here. Toscanini basically performs each piece the same, with strong attacks, over-emphasis on sforzandos, rushed tempos as a rule (though not always), and a tensile line. His admirers will like these features; I found them nerve-wracking. The NBC Sym. is surprisingly scrappy in the finales of Sym. 2 and 4, and much of the Eroica lacks eloquence. The slow movements show up well, however, thanks to Toscanini's feeling for how to shape a melodic line. Overall, this is the most disappointing of the "Immortal" series so far.
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91e9884c) out of 5 stars Lyric and Technically Outstanding 16 Jun. 2002
By Alexander Baron - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
These discs are among the definitive editions of Beethoven's symphonies. Technically, there is no stressing of harmony over melody. The listener can hear every note that is played by any instrument. As Toscanini is not a romantic, there are few gradual tempo changes (Crescendo, diminuendo, etc.). Instead,Toscanini essentially uses block dynamics most of the time. The symphonies are played in classical style, with somewhat taut phrasing and sound.
However, this is not to say that these recordings are devoid of lyricism and emotion. Szell's Beethoven is technically perfect, in classical style, unlyric, and unemotional. Toscanini's Beethoven is (nearly) technically perfect, in classical style, lyric, and emotional. In these recordings, themes are masterfully connected one to the next, and the music flows.
The First, Second, and Fourth symphonies represent Beethoven in his happy moods. Toscanini makes them sound joyful without being overly happy or cute. The Third symphony has drama, and its Funeral March is magnificent by any standards. The Egmont Overture is less weighty than it is on some other recordings. The remastering was good, but not perfect. If you own only one edition of symphonies 1-4, this should be it.
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