Sunday, March 14, 2010

RCA LIVING STEREO: Charles Munch, Boston Symphony Orchestra - Beethoven: Symphony 5 & 6

     Artist: Charles Munch, Boston Symphony Orchestra
    Released: 2005
     RCA Living Stereo
    Catalog N°:
    File Format:
     eac_wv_cue_log complete scanss - 413MB, MP3 (LAME) VBR 250 V0 - 114mb

    On this disc:
    1-4. Symphony No. 5 in C minor ("Fate"), Op. 67  (31:08)
    5-9. Symphony No. 6 in F major ("Pastoral"), Op. 68  (36:11)

     Charles Munch is not the first conductor one associates with Beethoven’s symphonies, but excellent, privately issued French broadcast recordings from the 1960s show him to have been a strong, vigorous Beethovenian. So, too, do a few commercial recordings for RCA during his Boston Symphony years, although these haven’t circulated very widely in the post-LP era. Indeed, RCA skipped over Munch’s Beethoven Fifth and Sixth during its Living Stereo reissue go-round in the 1990s, but here they are making a welcome addition to the new Living Stereo SACD catalog. The two-channel sound here is vibrant but hardly astonishing; the main point of interest remains the performances.
    The Fifth benefits from fleet tempos, tight ensemble, and punchy attacks, with the woodwinds nicely cutting through the string-centered sonority. Munch tends to set a course and push through without offering any of the telling details of phrasing and pacing provided by, say, Carlos Kleiber and the Vienna Philharmonic (on a distant-sounding two-channel SACD reissue from DG, coupled with the Seventh), to say nothing of the splendid recent Vänskä/Minnesota surround version on BIS (coupled with the Fourth). Still, it’s a fine performance comparable to the early 1960s Karajan (also on SACD), but with greater textural variety.
    The “Pastoral” Symphony is even better. My favorite recording is the genial Monteux/London Symphony on Decca (not reissued in a DSD version, alas); Munch comes very close to this standard, burbling along with gentle delight in the first two movements, and then pulling out all the stops in the symphony’s second half, with superb wind solos in the third movement, a powerful storm sequence, and a concluding hymn that’s managed so well that for once it doesn’t wear out its welcome. Again, Munch is stingy with repeats, but that’s not really critical in this symphony. A very good Fifth and an outstanding “Pastoral” gain a well-deserved new lease on life.

    pw: munch
    not my rip, thanks to original releaser
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