The Symphonica Toscanini, under the Musical Direction of Lorin Maazel, is an orchestra that is quite keen to begin the New Year. And just not for the thrill of New Year resolutions and craploads of champagne and caviar. The symphony is about to embarked on a year-long tour called, "In the Footsteps of Toscanini -- Symphony of the Air," in remembrance of the fiftieth anniversary of the passing of Arturo Toscanini.
In recognition of fifty years departure of the Italian conductor's death, the Rome-based orchestra (comprised of a revolving organization of about two hundred musicians) will spend almost three weeks at the beginning of their tour by playing fourteen dates across the United States: beginning on Thursday, January 11 with a concert at the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C., and ending Sunday, January 28 in San Francisco at U of C's Zellerbach Hall.
Conductor Lorin Maazel will lead the orchestra on the same routes that Toscanini himself took (in 1920 with the Orchestra Arturo Toscanini and again in 1950 with the NBC Symphony Orchestra), bearing witness to similar trials that marked his long career. The repertoire has been chosen to reflect some of the more favorite works that Arturo Toscanini preferred.
Music Director Maazel describes his honor in leading the symphony, and his excitement of the upcoming tour:
“When I was asked to lead an ensemble whose ranks are drawn from some of the most awesomely gifted young soloists of our day, first as guest conductor and eventually as Music Director, I felt it incumbent upon me to accept the challenge. I'm glad I did.”
“In recent tours in Europe and Asia these young people have realized their musical potential in an orchestral frame so stunningly as to bring audiences to their feet at the end of each concert cheering and lauding these sterling virtuosi and roaring for more. In presenting the Symphonica Toscanini in their first major U.S. tour, I revel in anticipation of the acclaim they will surely be accorded.”
The most prominent of these US concerts, "A Tribute to Toscanini," scheduled on Tuesday, January 16 in NYC’s Avery Fisher Hall, is significant for two reasons. First, it is the actual date that Toscanini passed away fifty years ago. Second, the concert will feature Renée Fleming singing with both the New York Philharmonic and the Symphonica Toscanini (whereas every other US concert comprises of only symphony performances). La Renée will sing a small selection of songs from Cilea to Respighi. There will also be a gala dinner, catered by prominent Italian chefs, and Avery Fisher Hall will also be displaying about sixty pieces from Arturo Toscanini's art collection (from January 16 - March 31), which includes works by Boccioni and Innes, along with media such as home movies.
Before hitting the United States, the tour of Symphonica Toscanini will begin officially on January 9, 2007 at the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma, with the orchestra playing a selection of Bizet, Verdi, Wagner, and Puccini, under the direction of Gianluigi Gelmetti (btw, the best/freshest pescheria in all of Milan is at Pescheria Gelmetti on via Vitruvio). They will then continue through Israel, Japan, and South America to perform more than forty concerts.
The orchestra dedicates themselves to the musical ideals that were embodied by Toscanini. Maestro Toscanini was able to penetrate mainstream conceptions of classical music with high-profile achievements, including directorship roles at Teatro alla Scala, NYC Met Opera, the New York Philharmonic, and the NBC Symphony Orchestra.
So what will we be doing in Milan for the fiftieth anniversary of la scomparsa on January 16? Some will head over to Cimitero Monumentale di Milano with flowers and/or yartzeit, where Toscanini is buried with Horowitz.
The catch? The tickets have already been given out to "i nove Consigli di Zona e i Centri Comunali per la terza Età". Translation: SENIOR CITIZENS NEED ONLY APPLY. Oh Furies! How this nubile skin betrays me!