As I've mentioned here before, I've recently purchased the Westminster box set, the Mercury Vol. 1 & 2, (but I haven't gotten 2 yet), and most interesting, the latest incarnation of the complete Toscanini. I'm amazed by the range of qualities of remastering in the Toscanini set. Some are dreadful, like the late '40s early '50s versions of the Beethoven Symphonies. These are painfully over-modulated with the tympanies regularly going into distortion, (I didn't recognize the names of the remastering engineers on these ones). One advantage of this set is that it includes the recordings by the Philadelphia Orchestra and the BBC Orchestra which weren't included in the '90s set. The Philadelphia recordings are a marvel of recorded sound, high fidelity even by today's standards, considering that these recordings were made at roughly the same time as the wretched sounding Horowitz Tchaikovsky concerto which was such a popular album; I've never heard a
definitive version of why these were rejected for issue when they were recorded. The first story I heard was that the recordings were defective and unusable. This seems absurd since RCA had been recording this orchestra in this hall probably more than they had recorded any other orchestra - they should have been able to record them in their sleep! The Mendelssohn "Midsummer Night's Dream" would have been a particularly useful set to have on the market since nobody had recorded this much of the score before. Also it's strange that, if these records weren't to be issued, that Toscanini didn't re-record the material with the NBC until several years later. One of the miracles of the collection is the Haydn Symphonies 88 and 95. The sound of Symphony 88 is remarkable since it was recorded in 8-H but it sounds like the best from Carnegie Hall, (thank you Mr. Samuels). Another miracle, (and I don't know who is responsible for it), is the 1939
Eroica. This was probably one of the worst sounding Toscanini 78 albums ever released but a different source was used for the CD and the comparison is astonishing. I will never understand why RCA, who had arguably one of the finest conductors in history in their arena, consistently produced such poor recordings of him. I don't know of any Toscanini recording which was as good as other recordings from the same period, (except perhaps the La Scala recordings).