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This year marks the 80th anniversary of one of the more important classical musical events that was heard by American radio audiences during the Second World War. By this time, Arturo Toscanini and his N.B.C. Symphony Orchestra had become a mainstay for serious classical music lovers who listened to the radio since they debuted on Christmas night of 1937; the only other competition they had at the time that were broadcast on a regular weekly basis were the Metropolitan Opera on Saturdays and the New York Philharmonic on Sundays. It was no secret that the Maestro was a fervent and outspoken critic of Mussolini; in fact, because of his views, Toscanini almost didn’t return to America from Italy in 1938 after his annual vacation there because Il Duce had confiscated his passport. It was due to a general outcry that his passport was returned to him, so that he could leave his mother country, vowing never to come back as long as “that monstrous beast” was in charge. By the time of this broadcast in the summer of 1943, there was quite a bit of unrest in war-torn Italy, and Mussolini’s reign was coming to an end; coincidentally, it did come to an end during this program and was announced during its intermission.
Toscanini worshipped Verdi; this was the second broadcast that year where he programmed his mentor’s music for the entire evening. He felt that this was his musical contribution to the war effort in helping to defeat the Axis powers in Europe and in the Pacific. What made this concert so special is that he had the four principal singers who were to participate in the fourth act of Rigoletto perform an aria from four other operas by the Italian master. The operas in question? Luisa Miller, Don Carlos, Un ballo in maschera and La forza del destino. Tenor Jan Peerce, one of the Maestro’s favorite singers, whom he frequently engaged, appears with mezzo-soprano Nan Merriman and baritone Francesco Valentino, making their first appearances on these broadcasts, along with American soprano Gertrude Ribla, who rounds out the cast for this historic event.
For decades, the sound source for this concert that circulated in the underground tape world was of such poor audio quality that little could be enjoyed listening to it. Mr. Winner recently restored a newly discovered source which is a sonic revelation. He is pleased to present this historic concert once again. If time allows, he will also present Toscanini rehearsing excerpts from La Boheme, La traviata, and Otello.
Seth B. Winner has been the president of Seth B. Winner Sound Studios since April 1990. His clients include SONY, BMG, The New York Philharmonic, The Metropolitan Opera & Guild, The Minnesota Orchestra, Pavilion Records, The Warner Brothers Vitaphone Project, and many independent labels. His work has garnered an Honorable Mention and three nominations from NARAS/Grammy Foundation. In 1987, Mr. Winner became a sound preservation engineer at the New York Public Library, a position he held until his retirement in 2020; he had preserved numerous collections that are housed in the Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound. He originally unpacked, sorted, and did the initial preservation on magnetic tape, of the Toscanini Legacy, which contained several hundred hours of concerts and rehearsals conducted by the legendary conductor.
Well, that’s all very nice, but we at the VRCS, of which he has been a member for over 40 years, know him as the superb sound engineer for all our programs and on our Annual VRCS CDs, a curmudgeonly-but-lovable fellow (well, that may be pushing it) without whom we simply could not operate. He is also the Mystic Mainspring of the New York Chapter of The Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) and the primary support of every deli within in a radius of 50 miles. He is too much (sometimes literally), but we would be lost without him. His association with Toscanini’s broadcasts and recordings is on the legendary side, so do join us in February for his latest venture into the TTT (Toscanini Treasure Trove).
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2023 (THE FIRST
FRIDAY!) TIME: 7:30PM SHARP
This page last revised 2/2/23 5:08 PM EST
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