Toscanini
Arturo Toscanini - portrait
Arturo Toscanini - portrait

Arturo Toscanini ( March 25, 1867 – January 16, 1957) was an Italian conductor. He was one of the most acclaimed musicians of the late 19th and 20th century. He was renowned for his intensity, his perfectionism, his ear for orchestral detail and sonority, and hisphotographic memory. As music director of the NBC Symphony Orchestra he became a household name (especially in the USA) through his radio and television broadcasts and many recordings of the operatic and symphonic repertoire. He is widely considered to have been one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century. Although opinions differ on the relative greatness of different historical conductors, it is generally agreed that during his lifetime Toscanini was considered the pre-eminent classical musician of the day.

Toscanini was born in Parma, Emilia–Romagna, and won a scholarship to the local music conservatory, where he studied the cello. He joined the orchestra of an opera company, with which he toured South America in 1886. While presenting Aida in Rio de Janeiro, Leopoldo Miguez, the locally hired conductor, reached the summit of a two-month escalating conflict with the performers due to his rather poor command of the work, to the point that the singers went on strike and forced the company's impresario to seek a substitute conductor. But on the evening of June 30, 1886 maestro Carlo Superti found himself booed by the audience, now prompted by the disgruntled Miguez. Yet another last-minute substitute conductor, Aristide Venturi, could not overcome a hostile, hollering public, and was forced to leave the podium. In desperation, the singers suggested the name of their assistant Chorus Master, who knew the whole opera by heart. Although he had no conducting experience, Toscanini was forcibly persuaded by the musicians to take up the baton at 9:15 P.M., discarded the score, and led a sensational performance of the two-and-a-half hour opera completely from memory. The public was taken by surprise, at first by the youth and sheer aplomb of this unknown conductor, then by his solid mastery. The result was astounding acclaim. For the rest of that season Toscanini conducted eighteen operas, all with absolute success. Thus began his career as a conductor, at age 19.

Even today, thirty-five years after his death, Toscanini remains the supreme legend in classical music. Nearly every musician who ever played with him considered the experience to have been the pinnacle of his career. The greatest composers of the time implored him to conduct premieres of their works. Seasoned critics ran out of superlatives describing the power of his performances. Even his rivals acknowledged that he had no peer. He was called, quite simply, the Maestro, as if there was no other. His influence still shapes our modern perception of classical music. And yet, the modern listener is perplexed: Toscanini's records often fail to affirm his reputation.
A major part of the problem is that the vast bulk of Toscanini's commercial recordings were made at the extreme end of his long career, when the creative spark had dimmed and his graceful lyricism had all but calcified into grim determination. A far better perspective emerges from his concerts and his earlier records.
The anomaly also stems from the fact that, in a way, Toscanini became a victim of his own success. Toscanini stunned the musical world with a startling new style which proved so influential that it became the interpretive norm. As a result, the performing scene was so crowded with Toscanini clones that the novel approach upon which his fame was anchored no longer amazed and indeed seemed quite commonplace. And yet, the potency of the Toscanini legend has barely diminished.


Annotative Bibliography
"Toscanini, The Recorded Legend, Classical Notes, Peter Gutmann." Classical Notes, Peter Gutmann, CD Reviews, Articles, Expanded Goldmine Columns. Web. 03 June 2011. <http://www.classicalnotes.net/features/toscaweb.html>.
- this site was used for general information and also the photo above.
"The Toscanini Legacy Collection of Sound Recordings, 1926-1968, 1940-1957 (bulk). | The New York Public Library." Welcome to the New York Public Library. Web. 03 June 2011. <http://www.nypl.org/archives/3392>
- site was used for the mini autobiography in first paragraph
"TOSCANINI---The Man Who Conducts Without a Score - " It's a Habit," He Tells His Interviewer, "It Began When I Was 18 Years Old." - Article - NYTimes.com." The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. 23 Jan. 1910. Web. 03 June 2011. <http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F40A13F93C5417738DDDAA0A94D9405B808DF1D3>.
-mainly the last paragraphs information was found on this site.