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Toscanini's "Manfred"

Could please make me clear what changes had Arturo Toscanini made to Tchaikovsky's Manfred symphony? I have his performance with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Total timing is about 48.33. I only know that Toscanini made some serious cuts mainly in the last movement and that there are some changes with the orchestration. I would be very happy to know what exactly has the Maestro changed?

Marcel in Slovakia

I understand that Toscanini cut around five minutes of music from the symphony's finale, which consists of a striking slow section and fugue in the first half of the movement. There were also small changes to the orchestration throughout, e.g. a trumpet playing instead of the clarinet

Other conductors sometimes follow his example, or make further cuts. I have even heard concerts where the first movement's finale has been added to the end of the finale, to give an "unhappy ending" !

If you have a fast internet connection then you can listen to a complete performance of Manfred—as Tchaikovsky intended it to be played—on the BBC's web-site at:

Brett Langston

Manfred has in the past often been performed with cuts, the tendency to mutilate the finale has even spread to the perfectly concise middle movements in some performances. The practice of repeating the end of the first movement at the end of the finale is, happily, as with the other alterations, dying out. The original ending is perhaps the most moving and transfiguring culmination to any Tchaikovsky symphony, and the sudden appearance of the organ can be overwhelming—in a decent performance. In anything other than a inspired rendition, this visionary passage can fall flat, which is why some conductors, I suspect, just avoid it compeletly, a bad mistake. I would recommend Vladimir Jurowski with the London Philharmonic, recorded live (2006).

Norman Armstrong

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This page was last updated on 05 November 2013