Arturo Toscanini

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Toscanini, Arturo

(ärto͞o`rō tōskänē`nē), 1867–1957, Italian conductor, internationally recognized as one of the world's great conductors. He studied cello at the Parma Conservatory, from which he graduated in 1885. After performing as a cellist with various minor orchestras in Italy, he went to Rio de Janeiro in 1886 to play in the opera orchestra there. Substituting as conductor, he first demonstrated his ability to elicit electrifying performances from musicians, a sound that was lean, exciting, transparent, and accurate, and he was engaged for the rest of the season.

Toscanini returned to Italy the next season (1886–87), and there conducted the premieres of Leoncavallo's Pagliacci (1892) and Puccini's La Bohème (1896) and the Italian premiere of Wagner's Götterdämmerung (1895). In 1898, Toscanini was appointed chief conductor and artistic director at La Scala, Milan, where he presented many new operas and the Italian premieres of many others, including Wagner's Die Meistersinger (1898) and Siegfried (1899). Unlike previous La Scala conductors, he conceived of an opera as an organic entity, with costumes, sets, staging, and direction all contributing to the drama of the whole.

From 1908 to 1914 he conducted at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City, where he gave American premieres of Puccini's Girl of the Golden West (1910), Wolf-Ferrari's Le donne curiose (1912), and other works. Toscanini returned to Italy during World War I. With the reorganized La Scala Orchestra he toured (1920–21) Europe and the United States and was artistic director of La Scala from 1921 to 1929. After 1931, the antifascist conductor refused to perform in Mussolini's Italy; he also refused to appear in Hitler's Germany. He conducted the New York Philharmonic from 1928 to 1936 and the NBC Symphony Orchestra, which was formed for him, from 1937. His other important engagements included the Bayreuth Festivals (1930, 1931), of which he was the first non-German conductor, the Salzburg Festivals (1934–36), and the Lucerne Festivals (1937–39). In 1936 he conducted the inaugural concert of the Palestine Symphony Orchestra in Tel Aviv. In 1954 he retired as conductor of the NBC Symphony Orchestra.

Toscanini commanded perfection from his orchestras and instilled them with remarkable energy. A tempestuous personality, he was nevertheless greatly respected by performers and was widely emulated by conductors. His artistry is preserved in recordings, notably of the symphonies of Beethoven and works by Brahms, Wagner, Verdi, and many others.


See B. H. Haggin, Conversations with Toscanini (1959); letters ed. by H. Sachs (2002); biographies by H. H. Taubman (1950), S. Chotzinoff (1956), D. Ewen (rev. ed. 1960), B. H. Haggin (1967), and H. Sachs (1978 and 2017); studies by R. C. Marsh (1956) and P. C. Hughes (2d enl. ed. 1970), J. Horowitz (1987), and H. Sachs (1991).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Toscanini, Arturo


Born Mar. 25, 1867, in Parma; died Jan. 16, 1957, in New York. Italian conductor.

In 1885, Toscanini graduated from the Royal School of Music in Parma, where he studied the cello. He began his career as an orchestral musician. In 1886 he made his conducting debut in Rio de Janeiro, and from 1887 to 1898 he was an opera and symphony conductor in Italy. From 1898 to 1903, 1906 to 1908, and 1921 to 1929, Toscanini was principal conductor and music director at La Scala in Milan, and from 1908 to 1915 he conducted at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. He also made conducting tours throughout the world. In 1928, Toscanini moved to the USA, where he conducted the orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic (1926–36), and the NBC Symphony (1937–53), which was created expressly for him. In the 1930’s he directed music festivals at Bayreuth and Salzburg.

Toscanini was one of the greatest artists of his time and an outstanding opera and symphony conductor. He was blessed with an exceptional artistic temperament and musical memory, and his energy and spirit infected audiences and performers alike. Toscanini strove for absolute precision and insisted on total fidelity to the composer’s intentions. His repertoire included classical and romantic music as well as modern compositions; in 1942 he conducted the premiere of D. D. Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 (“Leningrad”).


Zweig, S. Arturo Toskanini: Izbr, proizv, vol. 2. Moscow, 1956.
(Translated from German.) “Toskanini.” In Ispolnitel’skoe iskusstvo zarubezhnykh stran, fasc. 6. Moscow, 1971.
Iskusstvo Arturo Toskanini: Vospominaniia, biograficheskie materialy. Leningrad, 1974.
Corte, A. della. Toscanini visto da un critico. [Torino] 1958.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Toscanini, Arturo

(1867–1957) conductor; born in Parma, Italy. He was a cellist before the night in 1886 when he took over the baton from an indisposed conductor in Rio de Janeiro and stayed on the podium for the rest of his career. After years of journeyman work in Italian opera houses, he became conductor of Milan's La Scala in 1898. In 1909 he came to the U.S.A. to lead the Metropolitan Opera orchestra; his subsequent career took him to positions in Europe, England, and the U.S.A., including the podium of the New York Philharmonic from 1928 to 1936. In 1937 the NBC Symphony, primarily a broadcasting and recording orchestra, was created for Toscanini; he led it until 1954, cementing his reputation as one of the most revered conductors in the world. He helped pioneer a new performance tradition that proclaimed an end to Romantic interpretive excesses and substituted absolute fidelity to the score; in practice, that made for clean, sinewy performances, achieved partly by his legendary tantrums in rehearsals. He was equally admired for his performances of Beethoven and other 19th-century classics and of modern composers including Stravinsky, Debussy, and Richard Strauss.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.