cover image Toscanini: Musician of Conscience

Toscanini: Musician of Conscience

Harvey Sachs. Liveright, $39.95 (992p) ISBN 978-1-63149-271-6

Sachs vibrantly and vividly narrates the sprawling tales of Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini’s passionate life, drawing on a treasure trove of newly available material: almost 1,500 letters, more than 100 tape recordings of Toscanini in conversation with his family and friends during the last years of his life, and archives of institutions with which Toscanini was deeply involved, such as La Scala and the Met. In exhaustive detail, Sachs begins with Toscanini’s birth in Parma in 1867 and energetically chronicles his student days; his marriage; his remaking of La Scala; his tenure at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera; his opposition to Mussolini; his years at the New York Philharmonic, Bayreuth, Paris, and Salzburg; and his death, just a few months before his 90th birthday. Toscanini emerges as a creative genius possessing an “extraordinary aural memory” that allowed him to recall pieces of music that he had heard but whose scores he had never seen. On tour with an opera company to São Paulo as assistant chorus master and principal cello when he was 19, Toscanini was thrust onto the conductor’s podium one evening when the crowd rejected the principal conductor; it was Toscanini’s remarkable debut. Sachs’s entertaining and definitive portrait of Toscanini reveals a passionate musician characterized by intense concentration, personal magnetism, generosity, and commitment to his country and his family. [em](June) [/em]