"This was Toscanini’s third season as Music Director of the NBC Orchestra and this CD is the opening concert recorded in the autumn of 1939 before a select audience in Symphony Hall at Radio City. The recording derives from a collection owned by Richard Blaine Gardner, a recording engineer and editor with whom Toscanini worked at RCA Victor. Copies of these tapes and discs were in turn passed down to Richard Caniell between 1949 and 1983, who subjected them to restorative processes, though retaining both the unfiltered sound and the original acoustics. One can only commend him and his team at Guild for their exemplary and painstaking work, for the result is very fine..."
"The programme of this concert in many ways typifies the Maestro’s music-making, beginning with the more predictable Schubert and Strauss but followed by a surprising choice of a work by Haydn (though this composer’s symphonies were often found in Toscanini’s programmes) and concluding with Respighi’s tamperings, Stokowski-style, with Bach. Toscanini lingers over his Schubert in a brooding interpretation, whilst sunlight pours into his Haydn. The Sinfonia Concertante may be a comparative rarity but it is always a good work for an orchestra to put four of its principal players under the spotlight. Though unnamed in the booklet they are in fact Robert Bloom (oboe), William Polesi (bassoon), Mischa Mischakoff (violin), and Frank Miller (cello), who did indeed hold their respective chairs as principal players in the NBC Orchestra at the time. Toscanini’s Strauss has clarity in the orchestral playing, rhythmic tension, concentrated sweep of phrasing, burning passion, beauty and tenderness in the love music and power at the climaxes, in short the finest playing that day. Respighi’s somewhat distortedly pompous and over-pretentious, cloying view of the wonderful Passacaglia by Bach is a curiosity, but nothing more.
Whatever one’s view of Toscanini, his podium manner or his music-making, whether his phrasing is at times too breathless or over-expansive, he was a supreme conductor whose concerts preserved as this one has been (and with hopefully more to come) make essential listening."