Toscanini, Arturo

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Toscanini, Arturo

Arturo Toscanini (ärtōō´rō tōskänē´nē), 1867–1957, Italian conductor, internationally recognized as one of the world's great conductors. He studied cello at the Parma Conservatory, from which he graduated in 1885. After performing as a cellist with various minor orchestras in Italy, he went to Rio de Janeiro in 1886 to play in the opera orchestra there. Substituting as conductor, he demonstrated his ability to elicit an electrifying performance from the musicians, and he was engaged for the rest of the season.

Toscanini returned to Italy the next season (1886–87), and there subsequently conducted the premieres of Leoncavallo's Pagliacci (1892) and Puccini's La Bohème (1896) and the Italian premiere of Wagner's Götterdämmerung (1895). In 1898, Toscanini was appointed chief conductor and artistic director at La Scala, Milan, where he presented many new operas and the Italian premieres of many others, including Wagner's Die Meistersinger (1898) and Siegfried (1899).

From 1908 to 1914 he conducted at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City, where he gave American premieres of Puccini's Girl of the Golden West (1910), Wolf-Ferrari's Le donne curiose (1912), and other works. Toscanini returned to Italy during World War I. With the reorganized La Scala Orchestra he toured (1920–21) Europe and the United States and was artistic director of La Scala from 1921 to 1929. Upon his return to the United States, he conducted the New York Philharmonic from 1928 to 1936 and the NBC Symphony Orchestra, which was formed for him, from 1937. His other important engagements included the Bayreuth Festivals (1930, 1931), of which he was the first non-German conductor, the Salzburg Festivals (1934–36), and the Lucerne Festivals (1937–39). In 1936 he conducted the inaugural concert of the Palestine Symphony Orchestra in Tel Aviv. Consistently antifascist, he refused several times to appear in fascist countries. In 1954 he retired as conductor of the NBC Symphony Orchestra.

Toscanini commanded perfection from his orchestras and instilled them with remarkable energy. A tempestuous personality, he was nevertheless greatly respected by performers and was widely emulated by conductors. His artistry is preserved in recordings, notably of the symphonies of Beethoven and works by Brahms, Wagner, Verdi, and many others.

See B. H. Haggin, Conversations with Toscanini (1959); letters ed. by H. Sachs (2002); biographies by H. H. Taubman (1950), S. Chotzinoff (1956), D. Ewen (rev. ed. 1960), B. H. Haggin (1967), and H. Sachs (1978); studies by R. C. Marsh (1956) and P. C. Hughes (2d enl. ed. 1970), and H. Sachs (1991).

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