NBC Symphony Orchestra

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The NBC Symphony Orchestra was a radio orchestra established by David Sarnoff of the National Broadcasting Company especially for conductor Arturo Toscanini. The NBC Symphony performed weekly radio concert broadcasts with Toscanini and other conductors and served as house orchestra for the network, beginning November 13, 1937 and continuing until 1954.



Tom Lewis, in the Organization of American Historians Magazine of History, described NBC's plan for cultural programming and the origin of the NBC Symphony:

Mr. Sarnoff spared no expense in creating the NBC Symphony. Artur Rodziński, a noted orchestra builder and musical task master in his own right, was hired to mold and train the new orchestra especially for Toscanini. Prominent musicians from major orchestras around the country were recruited for the orchestra. Conductor Pierre Monteux was engaged to help in the effort as well. In addition to creating prestige for the network, there has been speculation that one of the reasons NBC created the orchestra was to deflect a Congressional inquiry into broadcasting standards.[2]

The orchestra's first broadcast concert aired from NBC's Studio 8H on November 13, 1937 under the direction of Pierre Monteux. Toscanini conducted 10 concerts that first season, making his NBC debut on December 25, 1937. In addition to weekly broadcasts on the NBC Red and Blue networks, the NBC Symphony Orchestra made many recordings for RCA Victor of symphonies, choral music and operas. Televised concerts began in March 1948 and continued until March 1952. In the fall of 1950, NBC converted Studio 8H into a television studio (currently in use for NBC's late-night comedy program Saturday Night Live) and moved the broadcast concerts to Carnegie Hall, where many of the orchestra's recording sessions and special concerts had already taken place.

Toscanini led the NBC Symphony for 17 years. Under his direction the orchestra toured South America in 1940 and the United States in 1950. It also performed with a veritable who's who of the world's top conductors, including Monteux, Ernest Ansermet, Erich Kleiber, Erich Leinsdorf, Charles Münch, Fritz Reiner, George Szell, Bruno Walter, the young Lorin Maazel and the promising young Italian conductor Guido Cantelli.

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