“Toscanini in His Own Words” is a wonderful dramatized version
of a discussion between conductor Arturo Toscanini, his relatives
and closest associates, circa 1955. Since Toscanini never granted
interviews or left any diaries, he has been a real challenge
from a biographical standpoint. Fortunately his son, Walter, secretly
recorded his father during many informal gatherings. In 2007,
50 years after the maestro’s death, his family allowed these
filmmakers to use the tapes, in addition to excerpts from his letters.
The result is a fascinating glimpse into Toscanini’s mind and opinions
of various subjects, including the women in his life, the music he revered,
composers he knew personally, such as Verdi and Puccini, and the
regimes of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Actor Barry Jackson does
a great job of portraying Toscanini, and his excellence is equaled by
the other actors and actresses who engage the maestro in a discussion
of his life. Actual newsreel footage and films from the Toscanini family
archives are interspersed with this dramatic reenactment. Naturally,
a large portion of the footage is of Toscanini conducting.
This dramatization was well assembled by director Larry Weinstein with
noted Toscanini biographer, Harvey Sachs. It is very valuable, because
the words spoken by Barry Jackson as Toscanini are the actual words
of the maestro, with priceless bits of information. Therefore, “Toscanini
in His Own Words,” is a big success, and this 2009 DVD release on the
Medici Arts label is highly recommended.