Charles Munch & the Boston Symphony Orchestra 1958–1962 | ICA Classics ICAB5130

Charles Munch & the Boston Symphony Orchestra 1958–1962

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Label: ICA Classics

Cat No: ICAB5130

Format: DVD - NTSC

Number of Discs: 5

Genre: Orchestral

Release Date: 2nd June 2014



In 1949 Charles Munch was appointed director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a post that brought him to the pinnacle of his international career. He was by then fifty-eight years old, though only in his seventeenth season as a conductor (having previously been a professional violinist), and during his thirteen years with the orchestra he explored a wide range of repertoire from the Baroque to the contemporary – including some sixty-eight world premieres.

Munch’s activities as a recording artist spanned more than three decades, and in 1955 he launched the Boston Symphony Orchestra into television – a new medium to which his characteristic personality was well suited.

Detailing works from the German and Austrian repertoire that occupied an important part of Munch’s career (many of which he never recorded commercially), these DVDs feature some of the earliest televised concerts with the orchestra under their Musical Director. The footage is of exceptional musical interest and historical value, and has been restored using the greatest care and state-of-the-art techniques.

ICAD 5016

- Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus (extracts), 1960
- Symphony No.4, 1961
- Symphony No.5, 1959

This performance of extracts from The Creatures of Prometheus is a rare one, Munch having only conducted the ballet at the BSO in one season. Symphonies Nos 4 and 5 are executed with excitement, exuberance and panache. The latter, offering a superb display of virtuosity, was performed by the BSO some thirty-five times under Munch’s direction and was a favourite choice for touring.

‘… [Munch] shows himself to be a musician with both considerable expressive range and a direct, unaffected approach.’ - BBC Music Magazine

ICAD 5028
- Symphony No.98, 1960
- Symphony No.7, 1958

Like Prometheus, Munch never made commercial recordings of either of these symphonies. While the Haydn is ‘well matched to Munch’s genial and rambunctious temperament’ (Richard Dyer’s booklet note), the Bruckner is given a highly personal reading (a result of Munch’s decision to either follow or ignore the composer’s directives) that is bright and forward-moving in its design.

ICAD 5039
- Symphony No.3 ‘Scottish’, 1959
- Symphony No.4 ‘Italian’, 1958
- Masonic Funeral Music (Bonus), 1959

A welcome complement to Munch’s famous commercial recordings of Mendelssohn’s last three symphonies for RCA Victor. Here he offers a spontaneous performance of the Third, which is at the same time attentive to detail, and his direction of the Fourth abounds in energy.

Solemn music follows in the Mozart, with Munch’s summoning of ‘depth and breadth of tone and … rhythmic flexibility’ creating ‘big, emotional music-making’ (Richard Dyer).

ICAD 5052
- Overture to ‘Genoveva’, 1961
- Symphony No.2, 1959
- Symphony No.5, 1962

Munch was an ardent admirer of Schumann’s Second Symphony, which he programmed in four different seasons with the BSO but never recorded. Here he is evidently in his element. Like all conductors who adore Schumann, he was also partial to the overture to the composer’s only opera Genoveva, based on an old German legend and which is given a highly theatrical reading in this recording.

Schubert’s youthful Fifth Symphony completes the line-up, with Munch employing a reduced body of strings and adopting what Richard Dyer describes in his booklet note as a ‘genial’ approach towards this cheerful music.

This is an edge-of-the-seat performance [Schumann 2] to be spoken of in the same breath as Furtwängler’s Schumann 4, white hot, yet with time for tenderness too.’ - MusicWeb

ICAD 5057
- Water Music Suite (arr. Harty), 1960
- Symphony No.36 ‘Linz’, 1958
- Symphony No.38 ‘Prague’, 1959

Handel’s Water Music Suite was one of Munch’s favourite works, one that the BSO performed fifty-three times in the US under his direction, and here we have the opportunity to become acquainted with Sir Hamilton Harty’s arrangement for modern orchestra – an edition that was popular for many years until the historically informed performance movement broke onto the scene in the 1960s.

Munch set very little down in the way of Mozart commercially - here are the only recordings we have documenting his interpretations of the ‘Prague’ and ‘Linz’ symphonies – the former of which he conducted thirty-one times with the BSO.

The performance [of the ‘Linz’] is in Munch’s best, taut and linear style…’ - MusicWeb

Sound format: LPCM Mono (ICAD 5016, ICAD 5052) / Ambient Mastering (ICAD 5028, ICAD 5039) / Enhanced Mono (ICAD 5057)
DVD format: NTSC
Picture format: 4:3
Menu languages: English
Region code: 0
Territory Restrictions: None

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