When I was a school child, we listened to the radio in the afternoons. One program was "The Lone Ranger". I was thrilled by the theme music. I ask my mother what made that sound and she answered: a symphony orchestra. Later I learned that the theme was Rossini's William Tell Overture. Then, when I was a boy of the tender age of 16 or so, there was a wonderful new technology for recorded music called "high fidelity" (2-channel stereo soon followed). I was eager to learn all about it. A sampler vinyl disk set from RCA of orchestral hi fi music from their catalog fell into my hands. It consisted of 20 selections of various artists (I will mention only one artist). It seemed to me that the parts by Toscanini were way more worthy than the others. His precision and his clarity and especially his subtle rubato set him apart from all the rest. He became my hero. I collected every thing of his available. For 40 years I collected, ending with the new CD digital technology (all his recordings were analog and monophonic being produced before 1954). I still thrill today (50 years later) to just the memory of the final track of the RCA sampler set which was Toscanini and the Schubert 9th symphony, the 4th movement. It has always been my conviction and also Toscanini's that the performance should bow to the composer's intent. To put it another way, when I listen to Beethoven, there are three persons involved. There is me the listener, there is Beethoven the giant, and then there is the middle-man, the musician-performer. As the musician-performer, Toscanini put himself at the service of Beethoven (and his listener) and faded into the background, into the shadows, so as not to distract the audience from the full impact of the composer's music. That was a noble gesture. On the other hand, I am sure the reader can cite many examples of conductors who insist the spotlight should be on them throughout the concert. Stokowski had (in Philadelphia) the concert hall lights dimmed and the spotlight on his hands which he held over his head while conducting so the audience could see and admire his accomplishment. Stokowski was a musical genius who revolutionized orchestral sounds. But he was also a showman. The purist in me wants Beethoven without distraction. When you listen to Stokowski's Beethoven, it is a great circus show but ring master "Leo Stokes" insists on placing himself in the middle in such a way that he cannot be ignored. Stokowski completely fell from grace when he rewrote a few measurers to "improve" Beethoven's 7th symphony. In his recorded performance, those measures sound glaringly un-Beethoven and are hopelessly out of place, not to mention, irreverent. It is our goal at cyberchambermusic to reduce the role of the middle-man and give those who are interested the unvarnished intent of the composer straight from his score. By the way, the radio network was NBC (RCA) so the theme music may well have been Toscanini's performance of "The William Tell Overture" with the NBC Symphony. Furthermore, to this day this performance remains unequaled. By Ivan Sokolnikov, January, 2009.
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