Toscanini: A Conductor Stands up for Justice
Organized by the United Nations Department of Public Information in cooperation with the Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations and B’nai B’rith International. The celebrated Italian conductor
Organized by the United Nations Department of Public Information in cooperation with the Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations and B’nai B’rith International.
The celebrated Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini is well known for his music and courageous stand against fascism during the Second World War. Cesare Civetta, author of The Real Toscanini: Musicians Reveal the Maestro will give a multimedia presentation to be followed by Q & A.
Ms. Cristina Gallach, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information
H.E. Mr. Sebastiano Cardi, Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations
Mr. Cesare Civetta, author of The Real Toscanini: Musicians Reveal the Maestro
Ms. Natalia Indrimi, Executive Director, Centro Primo Levi
Mr. Allan J. Jacobs, President, B’nai B’rith International
Mr. Daniel S. Mariaschin, Executive Vice President, B’nai B’rith International
Moderator Ms. Kimberly Mann, Chief, Education Outreach Section, United Nations Department of Public Information
Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957) was among the most acclaimed musicians of the late 19th and 20th century. He was the music director of La Scala in Milan, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. He was the first music director of the NBC Symphony Orchestra (1937–54) becoming known to a broad public through the radio and television.
Born in Parma, the son of a tailor who had fought with Garibaldi, Toscanini embraced the fascist movement in the early years running as parliamentary candidate in 1919 and performing in Fiume during D’Annunzio’s nationalistic adventure. He was called “the greatest conductor in the world” by Benito Mussolini.
After the march on Rome, in 1922, Toscanini became disillusioned with fascism’s progressive attack on civil liberties and their final suppression. He repeatedly defied the fascist establishment, refused to display Mussolini’s photograph or conduct the Fascist anthem Giovinezza at La Scala. He was among a handful of Italian intellectuals who protested the anti-Jewish racial laws of 1938, finally deciding to leave the country upon the outbreak of WWII.
He was the first non-German conductor to appear at Bayreuth (1930–1931) presenting Wagner’s operas and conducted the 1936 inaugural concert of the Palestine Orchestra (later renamed the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra) in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Cairo.
In the US Toscanini joined the antifascist group Mazzini Society co-founded by the historian and antifascist in exile Gaetano Salvemini who later wrote that “our most effective argument in our criticism of fascism was Arturo Toscanini … He did not write or give lectures but his very existence was a formidable accusation against a political regime that could have chased such man out of his country”. During the war years, Toscanini often offered benefit concerts to support the musicians exiled by the European dictatorships.
After Mussolini’s fall, in July 1943, Toscanini joined Salvemini in warming the Allies against negotiating with leaders who been compromised with fascism.