It may be difficult to imagine today, but Arturo Toscanini--recognized widely as the most celebrated conductor of the twentieth century--was once one of the most famous people in the world. Like Einstein in science or Picasso in art, Toscanini (1867-1957) transcended his own field, becoming a figure of such renown that it was often impossible not to see some mention of the maestro in the daily headlines.Read more...
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It may be difficult to imagine today, but Arturo Toscanini--recognized widely as the most celebrated conductor of the twentieth century--was once one of the most famous people in the world. Like Einstein in science or Picasso in art, Toscanini (1867-1957) transcended his own field, becoming a figure of such renown that it was often impossible not to see some mention of the maestro in the daily headlines.
Acclaimed music historian Harvey Sachs has long been fascinated with Toscanini's extraordinary story. Drawn not only to his illustrious sixty-eight-year career but also to his countless expressions of political courage in an age of tyrants, and to a private existence torn between love of family and erotic restlessness, Sachs produced a biography of Toscanini in 1978. Yet as archives continued to open and Sachs was able to interview an ever-expanding list of relatives and associates, he came to realize that this remarkable life demanded a completely new work, and the result is Toscanini--an utterly absorbing story of a man who was incapable of separating his spectacular career from the call of his conscience.
Famed for his fierce dedication but also for his explosive temper, Toscanini conducted the world premieres of many Italian operas, including Pagliacci, La Boheme, and Turandot, as well as the Italian premieres of works by Wagner, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and Debussy. In time, as Sachs chronicles, he would dominate not only La Scala in his native Italy but also the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, and the NBC Symphony Orchestra. He also collaborated with dozens of star singers, among them Enrico Caruso and Feodor Chaliapin, as well as the great sopranos Rosina Storchio, Geraldine Farrar, and Lotte Lehmann, with whom he had affairs.
While this consuming passion constantly blurred the distinction between professional and personal, it did forge within him a steadfast opposition to totalitarianism and a personal bravery that would make him a model for artists of conscience. As early as 1922, Toscanini refused to allow his La Scala orchestra to play the Fascist anthem, "Giovinezza," even when threatened by Mussolini's goons. And when tens of thousands of desperate Jewish refugees poured into Palestine in the late 1930s, he journeyed there at his own expense to establish an orchestra comprised of refugee musicians, and his travels were followed like that of a king.
Thanks to unprecedented access to family archives, Toscanini becomes not only the definitive biography of the conductor, but a work that soars in its exploration of musical genius and moral conscience, taking its place among the great musical biographies of our time.
- ISBN-13: 9781631492716
- ISBN-10: 1631492713
- Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
- Publish Date: June 2017
- Page Count: 944
- Dimensions: 9.3 x 5.9 x 1.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.05 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2017-01-23
- Reviewer: Staff
Sachs vibrantly and vividly narrates the sprawling tales of Italian conductor Arturo Toscaninis passionate life, drawing on a treasure trove of newly available material: almost 1,500 letters, more than 100 tape recordings of Toscanini in conversation with his family and friends during the last years of his life, and archives of institutions with which Toscanini was deeply involved, such as La Scala and the Met. In exhaustive detail, Sachs begins with Toscaninis birth in Parma in 1867 and energetically chronicles his student days; his marriage; his remaking of La Scala; his tenure at New York Citys Metropolitan Opera; his opposition to Mussolini; his years at the New York Philharmonic, Bayreuth, Paris, and Salzburg; and his death, just a few months before his 90th birthday. Toscanini emerges as a creative genius possessing an extraordinary aural memory that allowed him to recall pieces of music that he had heard but whose scores he had never seen. On tour with an opera company to São Paulo as assistant chorus master and principal cello when he was 19, Toscanini was thrust onto the conductors podium one evening when the crowd rejected the principal conductor; it was Toscaninis remarkable debut. Sachss entertaining and definitive portrait of Toscanini reveals a passionate musician characterized by intense concentration, personal magnetism, generosity, and commitment to his country and his family. (June)