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The great Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini was born in 1867, and died in 1957. Famous for his temper, he was dedicated to improving orchestral standards. His habit of conducting from memory rather than from the score set a fashion, though it was probably mainly due to his extreme short-sightedness. He made a large number of recordings, some of which are still regarded as classics. He was noted for the strong stand he took in the 1930s against fascism.

He first appeared in the opera house of La Scala in Milan in 1887, playing 2nd cello at the premiere of Verdi's Otello. He conducted there from 1898 to 1908, introducing modern ideas such as putting out the house lights during the performance. He returned in the twenties, and conducted the premiere of Puccini's opera Turandot. He refused to begin performances with the fascist anthem, and resigned in 1929. He returned to a warm welcome in 1946 for the re-opening of La Scala after war-time bomb damage, donating a large sum for the restoration.

Much of Toscanini's career was spent in the US. He conducted at the New York Metropolitan Opera House from 1908 to 1915. As he got older, he conducted less opera, and more orchestral music. He was conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra from 1926 to 1936. In 1939, when he was 70, NBC made him conductor of an orchestra for radio broadcasts, which reached a wide audience over the next 15 years. His last performance was at the age of 87, in 1954.

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