Essays in Musical Analysis - Donald Francis Tovey - …

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Essays in Musical Analysis, Volume 1: Symphonies: Sir …

Essays in Musical Analysis: Concertos, , Donald Francis Tovey, Oxford University Press, 1948, ,

To my ears, the Philharmonic set sounds bland when compared to Toscanini’s concert recordings of the era. Thus, while the timings are nearly identical, a 1935 BBC Symphony Orchestra concert (BBC Music CD) is marginally more dramatic, with more urgent articulation and inflection and a somewhat quicker . As Sachs points out, the excellence and synchronization of conductor and orchestra are remarkable, as they had only worked together for two weeks at that point. Even more intense is a 1939 concert with the NBC Symphony Orchestra (Music and Arts CD), which substitutes precision for atmosphere, abetted by a sharply detailed recording with crisp timpani, winds and brass in lieu of the smoother blend and dull thuds of the Philharmonic studio recording. And tantalizing fragments from an April 1933 Philharmonic concert, despite miserable sound, evidence a tightly focussed yet pliant approach. In comparison, Toscanini’s highly-regarded NBC 1951 studio remake (RCA LP, BMG CD) sounds rather tired, with some “lazy” trumpet figures falling behind the beat, although it is partly redeemed by even stronger timpani-fueled climaxes. Any of the Toscanini outings exemplify a dedication to presenting the score with only minimal injection of the performer’s personality. Whether that is the epitome of integrity or a lack of imagination is, for me at least, an open question. In any event, what was once a daring pioneering approach has since become the norm and deserves to be remembered on that basis, even if its sense of boldness has long since dissipated.