The
MAESTRO March 1970, Volume 3 : Nos. 1 - 4


BBC photo courtesy Broadcasting House, London
TOSCANINI AND BBC SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
from "TOSCANINI AND BBC SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA"
by John W. Freeman
From "The Orchestra Speaks", by Bernard Shore, BBC Symphony violist From the Chapter on Arturo TOscanini.
(...( he gives ) the impression that his mind has been busy with the score long before he arrives on the poduim. )
While the orchestra prepares to play, he always reflects deeply for a moment or two, in a characteristic attitude - head slightly bent down, the baton held upright close to his body, its tip just touching his chin. then, with his preparatory words in three languages - "Bien, bitte, allora " - he taps his desk sharply with the baton, and immediatery plays as far as possible, not stopping for minor details but saving them up in his head for an en-forced stop or the end of the exposition of the movement. Most of the in-correct minor details are reflected by his expression or by a click of his tangue. If all goes well, to his thinking, his does not play it again - he repeats nothing that is not absolutely necessary.
In London in 1937 he opened his rehearsals with Brahms' C Minor Symphony. He playsed it as far as the first double bar ( after the figure F ) and then stopped. " Ah, non si male - some things, yes! First and second violins, speak clear your semiquavers. I do not hear them! Bitte, play first and second violins only, six bars after A. Speak clear in tempo. Alors, bassoon, and first violin, and also flute. " ( He sings the phrase six bars after Letter A. )" This beautiful misic! Why you not sing? Sempre cantare, sempre cantare, always, always, sing! Alors - da capo, the biginning."
After one or two more stops one realizes unusual tautness of the atmosphere. there is dead silence at a stop, with no stragglers or hushed whispers. Frequently at a rehearsal, the conductor stops and a straggler or two goes on playing. With Toscanini, silence is instantaneous and may almost be felt.
Before beginning the andante, he asks the orchestra to "Play piano, espressivo, in tempo and cantand, " After a few bars he stops and reminds the lower strings of the pianissimo at the third bar. Once again, he plays the opening and proceeds as far as the entry of the oboe, when he again stops after two or three bars of the solo. " Ah, cantand, It is so cold - it is impossible to play unless you sing. " He sings these last bars of the oboe solo with the most intense feeling, his voice breaking into falsetto as he overloads it with emotion. Impossible not to be dominated by that searing, pent up emotion which at times seems to burst from him. If he receives a good response, then he is happy; but if for some reason this is lacking, he seems to feel sickeing sense of frustration; he drives himself almost frantic in endeavoring to express the vision that is so clear to him but cloudy to the orchestra.
"Oh! Why cannot tou see. I do this or that - look at me. It is impossible not to understand. Ah! andiamo, andiamo. I do not make stringend retenute. In tempo, play in tempo, and sing. I do not ask more, but cantare with me. " All these disjointed phrases pour from his mouth, an on his rostrum in a frenzy, loose pages flying his score.
A bar or two further on the lower strings crowed in too soon on the first violin sforzando, and Toscanini warns them that it is a full quaver later. At the oboe solo ( Letter B, second subject ), he seizes on the accompaniment in the lower string. " Not sec, but smoothe and alive! a slight push on the ----"