Magazine article Gramophone

'Toscanini the Maestro'

Magazine article Gramophone

'Toscanini the Maestro'

Article excerpt

'Toscanini the Maestro' (R) DVD

A film by Peter Rosen

RCA Red Seal (F) DVD 88765 43713-9

(98' * NTSC * 4:3 * DD stereo * 0 * s)

From 82876 58242-9 (7/04)

Reissue for Rosen's Toscanmi documentary

Peter Rosen's 1985 film, scripted by Harvey Sachs, very much presents Toscasisi rather than Toscanono, as you might expect from its issue by the conductor's 'own' record label, and in a stripped-down version of the livery for its 84-CD 'complete' collection of recordings. Colour home-movie footage from the 1930s of the maestro relaxing en famille holds an unpredictable if stagey fascination, and old hands from the NBC SO, nearly all doubtless no longer with us, attest to the hard-won technical ease of his baton control that sets him apart from almost all his peers and successors. The how and the why of what he did are questions outside Rosen's purview, and so are the darker episodes of a life invaluably chronicled by Sachs's edition of the conductor's letters. Even Robert Dornhelm's authorised documentary for the last Karajaniversary goes further in exploring a great conductor's constant attempts to absorb and communicate the import of documents that never change but constantly transform in the eye of an acute beholder. James Levine is Rosen's great asset in pursuing the case for Toscanini, even more than Mahler, as the conductor who raised and set standards, especially in opera houses, that we now take for granted.

At the time of the last of this documentary's periodic reissues, Jeremy Nicholas deplored the lack of a booklet, which is still absent, though the real missed opportunity passes with all those complete films of Toscanini in action (if that isn't too strong a word for his restrained body language during performance, as opposed to rehearsal). …

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