This Fourth of July, the Philharmonic will be celebrating two birthdays: America’s and the "Star-Spangled Banner"’s.
In advance of the national anthem’s bicentennial in September 2014, throughout July the Philharmonic will give the first performances of a new edition of former Philharmonic Music Director Arturo Toscanini’s 1951 arrangement of “The Star-Spangled Banner”: July 4–6 during the Summertime Classics: “Star-Spangled Celebration” concerts, led by witty conductor/host Bramwell Tovey; the free Central Park concert on July 14, during the New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks, led by Music Director Alan Gilbert; and July 18 during its Bravo! Vail residency, also led by Alan Gilbert.
Even more good news: the new edition will be made available to educators across the nation at no charge at starspangledmusic.org.
The backstory: In the years leading up to World War II, Toscanini was active as an anti-fascist. When he re-located to the U.S., he presided over the NBC Symphony Orchestra and was noted for championing “The Star-Spangled Banner” during World War II. In performance he faced the standing audience to lead them in singing the anthem’s first verse, and in every performance, including rehearsals or recording sessions, he insisted that all of the orchestra’s musicians stand while playing the anthem as a sign of respect. Toscanini originally created an orchestration of “The Star-Spangled Banner” for an international broadcast in 1943, and a few months later he completed a manuscript to be auctioned for war bond purchases. In December 1951 he revised his arrangement and donated the new autograph score to the Philharmonic for a fundraising auction; William Rosenwald, a Philharmonic Board Member (1941–75), bought the manuscript and donated it back to the Philharmonic. It remained in the Orchestra’s Archives until University of Michigan musicologist Mark Clague and Philharmonic Archivist/Historian Barbara Haws met in December 2013, and decided to collaborate on the new edition.