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Arturo Toscanini Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (2) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (40) | Personal Quotes (4)

Overview (2)

Date of Birth 25 March 1867Parma, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Date of Death 16 January 1957Riverdale, New York, USA  (stroke)

Mini Bio (1)

Arturo Toscanini was the most celebrated conductor of his time, considered by many to be the greatest conductor of the twentieth century. He revolutionized musical interpretation by frequently insisting that his orchestras play the music exactly as written, a highly unusual practice in the nineteenth century, when Toscanini began his career. He conducted the world premieres of such operas as Puccini's "La Boheme" and "Turandot", and Leoncavallo's "Pagliacci". During his lifetime and for a short while afterwards,he was revered by critics (and still is by the older ones.) Today's younger critics, however, tend to look down on him, and call his fidelity to the printed score "lack of imagination" - a term which shows a total misunderstanding of Toscanini's achievements.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Albert Sanchez Moreno

Spouse (1)

Carla De Martini (21 June 1897 - 23 June 1951) (her death) (4 children)

Trivia (40)

Toscanini was on the verge of retirement at age 70 when RCA chairman David Sarnoff asked him if he would like to conduct a radio orchestra especially created and trained just for him. Toscanini, not wishing to return to Fascist Italy because of possible personal harassment from Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, chose to take up permanent residence in the U.S. and accepted the offer.Thus was born his incredible 17-year tenure with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, trained by Artur Rodzinski, which enabled him to be heard by millions at once, and extended his career into the age of LP records, television, hi-fi, and even two stereo recordings, the first of which was not released until 1986 (the second was not released in a stereo edition until January of 2007). Toscanini didn't retire until 1954, when he was 87. He remained an Italian citizen all his life, and was buried in Milan, Italy.
Grandfather of Walfredo Toscanini.
Father-in-law of world-famous pianist Vladimir Horowitz.
Principal conductor of the New York Philharmonic from 1928 to 1936, after making guest appearances in 1926 and 1927.
Conducted at Bayreuth in 1930 and 1931; did not conduct in Germany again after Hitler rose to power.
Conducted at the Metropolitan Opera in New York from 1908 to 1915.
Made his conducting debut at the age of 19 in Rio de Janeiro when he led a performance of Aida from memory.
Played second cello in the world premiere of Verdi's Otello in 1887.
Oversaw editing and release of his broadcast performances following his retirement from conducting.
Conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1941-1942 after a falling out with the NBC Symphony; returned to the latter the following season.
He conducted the first concerts ever televised from Carnegie Hall (1951-1952).
Could conduct 160 operas from memory.
Toured the United States in 1920-1921 with the La Scala Opera orchestra (with which he made his first recordings) and in 1950 with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Took the NBC Symphony on a concert tour of South America in 1940. Took the New York Philharmonic on a concert tour of Europe in 1930.
His 1936 recording of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony with the New York Philharmonic is regarded as one of the greatest recordings of all time.
Was offered numerous honorary doctorate degrees during his lifetime, but declined all of them except for one from Georgetown University. Being Dr. Toscanini meant nothing to him.
Raised orchestral playing standards to new heights. Insisted on playing what was written, but was known to occasionally edit his scores - he cut Tchaikovsky's "Manfred Symphony" to forty-five minutes rather than playing it at its full length of one hour, for example, and he altered the "Waltz of the Flowers" in the "Nutcracker" Suite, changing the harp cadenza and adding an extra musical phrase to the ending of the waltz. He also, like nearly all conductors of the era, re-orchestrated sections of Robert Schumann's symphonies, though always in an unobtrusive manner that would not be noticed by anyone who was not an expert in Schumann.
Made $42,000/season at the Metropolitan Opera; $110,000/season while conducting the New York Philharmonic; and $4,000 per concert with the NBC Symphony Orchestra.
Idolized Giuseppi Verdi; met the composer for the first time during rehearsals for the world premiere of Otello when Verdi wanted to know who was playing second cello.
Could scarcely recall ever being kissed by his mother; always wondered if she ever really loved him.
Pictured on a 25¢ US commemorative postage stamp in the Performing Arts series, issued 25 March 1989.
He forbade the singing of encores during opera performances, insisting that opera is theater, and that the progress of the opera should never be interrupted so that the singers could show off their skills and cater to the audience.(Audiences at that time often demanded encores of arias and duets).
It is because of Toscanini that the house lights are completely dimmed today throughout the world during opera performances. He instituted this reform at La Scala Opera House in Milan, Italy. Before him, the lights were never dimmed completely, only halfway, and the audience could see each other clearly, thus breaking their concentration on the performance. They could also wander around or play cards during the performance. All of this was changed after Toscanini came.
Throughout his recording career, which began in the 1920s and ended in 1954, Toscanini was under exclusive contract to the Victor Talking Machine Company, which, during his career, became RCA Victor, the company we still know today. During the past twenty years or so, however, many little-known, alternative labels (some of them referred to as "pirate labels") have managed to release versions of many of these same RCA Victor recordings. Many are of sound quality inferior to the RCA versions, but quite a few of these recordings on other labels are of performances that were never released during his lifetime.
In 1990, and over the next two or three years, RCA Victor issued on CD all of the recordings Toscanini had made for that label, including some that had never been released, in an effort to present those recordings in high quality, remastered sound. They also released excellent quality videocassettes of Toscanini's television concerts. These items, however, began to be withdrawn after only a few years. However, in recent years, still higher-quality reissues of the Toscanini output were released by RCA Victor.
Several years ago, the classical CD label Guild began releasing versions of Toscanini concerts (including Verdi's "Otello"), in restored editions that are apparently more sonically faithful than any released before, and which not only contain the actual program, but supplementary material such as the announcer's comments (nearly always omitted previously) as well as rehearsal excerpts and interviews.
In December of 1944, as the Battle of the Bulge was taking place in Europe, Toscanini conducted a two-part radio broadcast of Beethoven's only opera, "Fidelio", a German work whose plot revolves around the rescue of a woman's husband from a German prison, and the overthrow of the tyrannical governor of the prison amid rejoicing. To Toscanini, this gesture symbolized the imminent overthrow of Hitler. The performance later appeared on records and on CD.
The Toscanini television concerts have all been released on DVD in the U.S., in formats that can be played on American DVD players. However, the numbering of the volumes is completely different, due to the fact that two one-hour concerts can easily fit on one DVD. Hence, Vol. 1 of the DVD collection contains both Vols. 1 and 2 of the concerts, and so on. The only volume that contains one concert is the one that contains Verdi's "Aida", and that is because the opera is two-and-a-half hours long, and therefore had to be divided into two programs.
His supposedly ferocious temper was spoofed posthumously in the Tom and Jerry animated cartoon, "Carmen Get It!" (1962), in which Tom runs into the orchestra pit chasing Jerry in the Metropolitan Opera House, and the conductor breaks several instruments over Tom's head. Toscanini was famous both for having conducted at the Metropolitan, and for having conducted "Carmen".
At Giuseppe Verdi's funeral in 1901, Toscanini conducted a performance of "Va, pensiero" (The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves), which ensured Verdi's success when it was first performed (it is from his opera "Nabucco"). Fifty-six years later, in 1957, the piece was played as part of a memorial concert for Toscanini, who had just died.
Some indication of the status he once held in classical music may be found in the fact that he is the only symphony orchestra conductor to have been featured on the cover of "Time" magazine three times - more than any other conductor (so far) in the history of music. Upon his death in 1957, the magazine gave him a full page obituary, while the 1954 death of 'Wilhelm Furtwangler', Toscanini's great rival, was covered by "Time" in only one brief paragraph.
He is often accused by modern critics of setting his tempos too fast (the favorite criticism leveled at him) when often they only seemed faster because the notes were articulated so precisely by the orchestras that Toscanini conducted.
Toscanini was a perfectionist, and he was notorious for refusing to approve the release of recordings that he had made which he felt weren't good enough. Because of this, he officially approved only one of his recordings of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, although he had recorded it four times previously. The finally approved version was a 1952 LP recording made by RCA Victor, in the studio, without an audience. It became one of the biggest selling classical recordings of all time. Since the advent of compact discs, however, several of Toscanini's live recordings of the Ninth, none of which he actually approved for release on records, have appeared on several CD labels. His only television performance of the Beethoven Ninth was released on VHS in 1990, and on DVD in 2006.
His first television concert, on March 20, 1948, was telecast on the same day that the Academy Awards were held that year. The schedules did not conflict because the Toscanini concerts were then broadcast in the early afternoon, and the Academy Awards had not begun to be shown on television yet. (They were broadcast on radio.)
Toscanini was such a part of American culture in the 1940s that Bob Hope, who also had a radio program on NBC at the time, made a comic reference to him in the film My Favorite Brunette (1947).
It is widely believed that Toscanini toured the U.S. only once - in 1950, with the NBC Symphony Orchestra - but he also toured as conductor of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra during the early years of the twentieth century (Toscanini was with the Met from 1908 to 1914, and the company went on annual tours of the U.S. until 1987. Unfortunately, Toscanini conducted at the Met before they began making recordings, so we have no recordings of his performances of opera there.) During those years with the Met, Toscanini conducted fully staged performances of opera, as opposed to the concert performances of it that he was forced to do at NBC because the studio was unwilling to spend money on fully staged versions with scenery and costumes.
After withdrawing their Toscanini Collection and not releasing anything by Toscanini for years, RCA Victor has begun once again to re-release its catalog of recordings by the conductor, this time in large box sets. Released so far have been "The Beethoven Symphonies" and "The Verdi Recordings" (containing all of the Verdi operas that Toscanini performed on NBC between 1946 and 1954). For the amount of CD's that each boxed set contains, they are relatively low-priced.
He was awarded 2 Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: for Radio at 6336 Hollywood Boulevard, and for Recording at 6725 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
Maintained that the Pope should have declared composer Ludwig van Beethoven a saint, because of Beethoven's accomplishments amid great personal suffering (the composer began going deaf in his thirties, and was totally deaf by the time he composed his "Missa Solemnis" and his "Ninth Symphony").
One of the many personalities mentioned in the song "We Didn't Start the Fire" by Billy Joel.

Personal Quotes (4)

To some it is Napoleon; to some it is Alexander the Great; to some it is philosophical struggle. To me it is simply Allegro con Brio. [discussing the first movement of Beethoven's third (Eroica) symphony. Other versions of this quote have Toscanini saying, Some say this is Napoleon; some Hitler; some Mussolini. To me it is simply Allegro Con Brio.]
"If you want to please only the critics, don't play too loud, too soft, too fast and too slow".
I kissed my first girl and smoked my first cigarette on the same day. I haven't had time for tobacco since.
[of German composer Richard Strauss, who accepted the sponsorship of the Nazis while Hitler was in power] To Strauss the composer I take off my hat. To Strauss the man I put it on again.

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