Toasting Toscanini

From the Associated Press

Concerts, exhibitions and movie showings are among the events planned worldwide to remember Arturo Toscanini, 50 years after the death of the celebrated Italian conductor.

Commemorations will take place throughout 2007, mostly organized by countries and musical institutions that were touched by Toscanini’s work as an artist and by his political stance as a staunch opponent of fascism and Nazism.

Key events are to take place on Jan. 16, the anniversary of the maestro’s death, with performances by some of the world’s top orchestras.

Daniel Barenboim leads a performance of Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony at La Scala’s Philharmonic in Milan, the storied opera house where Toscanini was chief conductor.


On the same day, the Arturo Toscanini Philharmonic plays pieces by Verdi and Richard Strauss in the conductor’s native Parma, while Lorin Maazel leads the New York Philharmonic in a gala concert at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Toscanini, who was born on March 25, 1867, showed great musical talent as a young man, aided by a photographic memory that gave him strong command over a vast repertoire. He went on to conduct important operatic premieres, among them Giacomo Puccini’s “La Boheme” in 1896.

Toscanini moved to the United States in 1908 to lead the Metropolitan Opera and later the New York Philharmonic and the NBC Symphony. He died in New York in 1957.

Opposed to Benito Mussolini’s regime, he refused to conduct in Italy after he was assaulted by fascist thugs in 1931. He returned to his native country only to conduct La Scala’s reopening in 1946 after its reconstruction from wartime bombings.


In 1936, he helped establish the future Israel Philharmonic Orchestra by conducting the inaugural concerts in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa of the Palestine Orchestra, an ensemble created by Jewish musicians who had fled Central Europe.

“Toscanini deserves to be remembered for his artistic qualities and for his political and social commitments,” said Piero Melograni, an Italian historian and member of an international committee at the head of the “Viva Toscanini” campaign, which organized some of the commemorations.

Also scheduled are biographical exhibits across Italy and one in New York featuring artwork collected by the conductor.