Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

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Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by Lance » Tue Nov 01, 2011 5:59 pm

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RCA Masters, 97792, ADD, 7:32:02

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Not only have I enjoyed a long-time passion for the Boston Symphony Orchestra on records (and live, of course, whenever possible)—from the days of Koussevitzky—Munch, Monteux (pre-Koussie and after), Leinsdorf, Steinberg, Ozawa, and Levine. While Levine didn't record that much with the BSO, Ozawa did, but he never did much for me with the BSO and yet he was at the helm there for a long, long time. From a sheer sound point of view, however, the best sound in stereo and late mono included recordings by Monteux, Munch, Leinsdorf, and Ozawa, particularly during the so-called "Living Stereo" era. Munch's recordings, for me, always sounded magnificent despite the fact that many do not accord him high honors whilst with that orchestra. I quite disagree. I found much to admire in Munch/Boston SO, particularly in Russian and French repertoire.

Now comes a French RCA 7-CD edition entitled "Late Romantic Masterpieces." We have some wonderful collaborations such as soprano Eileen Farrell in Wagner, Szeryng in the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, Piatigorsky in the Dvorak Cello Coneerto in in some Strauss. While there is no accompany boklet for this set, the recording dates are well documented, from 1955 to 1962 (stereo), and 1953 (mono) for Strauss's Don Quixote, Op. 35. All the recordings were captured in Boston's acoustically excellent Symphony Hall.

There are some real rarities here, such as the Mahler disc with Maureen Forrester, quite a fabulous recording in every respect and offering some of the finest performances of this music recorded ... in sound that has been remastered in high resolution audio (24-bit). This is a superb companion album to the previously issued 8-CD set by RCA-France [26732], which includes Brahms' Symphonies 1, 2, 4 (wish we had a No. 3, but alas ...), a Brahms Tragic Overture; a Brahms Piano Concerto #1 w/Graffman and a Piano Concerto #2 w/Rubinstein; Schubert Symphonies 2, 8, 9; Mendelssohn Symphonies 3, 4, 5, and the Scherzo from the Octet, and Violin Concerto w/Heifetz, a Capriccio Brillant w/Graffman; a Schumann Symphony #1 (Spring), Genoveva Overture.

The glory days of the basically stereophonic Boston Symphony Orchestra are with us once again, and all budget priced. Highly recommended. ♪
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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by Wallingford » Tue Nov 01, 2011 7:45 pm

Hard to say if Munch ever did Brahms' Third.....no surviving live recordings of him doing it with the BSO, at least not by Nate Brown's list.

Among the other three, Munch often played the Second with French orchestras.
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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by slofstra » Tue Nov 01, 2011 9:57 pm

I want this. I'm currently working through the other Munch set on Sony, and it's just great. I assume there's no overlap.

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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by Lance » Wed Nov 02, 2011 1:20 am

No, no overlap. Both Munch sets are must-haves IMHO.
slofstra wrote:I want this. I'm currently working through the other Munch set on Sony, and it's just great. I assume there's no overlap.
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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by Lance » Wed Nov 02, 2011 1:22 am

Hi, Neil ... Near as I know, there was never a Brahms 3 w/any orchestra under Munch.
Wallingford wrote:Hard to say if Munch ever did Brahms' Third.....no surviving live recordings of him doing it with the BSO, at least not by Nate Brown's list.

Among the other three, Munch often played the Second with French orchestras.
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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by slofstra » Wed Nov 02, 2011 9:44 am

A question. BSO under Munch. Best BSO ever?

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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by karlhenning » Wed Nov 02, 2011 9:45 am

Curious, no Brahms Third under Munch's baton!

Very much enjoy the 10-CD Berlioz box.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by Lance » Wed Nov 02, 2011 11:16 am

Among the best (for me) at least in some repertoire. Lots of conjecture over "the best" when it comes to this orchestra. Also, much more "authoritative" for me over Ozawa when it comes to Munch.
slofstra wrote:A question. BSO under Munch. Best BSO ever?
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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by slofstra » Wed Nov 02, 2011 1:06 pm

Lance wrote:Among the best (for me) at least in some repertoire. Lots of conjecture over "the best" when it comes to this orchestra. Also, much more "authoritative" for me over Ozawa when it comes to Munch.
slofstra wrote:A question. BSO under Munch. Best BSO ever?
Would the adjectives nimble and highly expressive be appropriate? I wonder if there is a French temperament that affects the style of the BSO under Munch. In any case, the 3 or 4 CDs I've heard this far (of Mendelssohn and Brahms) are a joy to listen to.

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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by John F » Wed Nov 02, 2011 2:57 pm

slofstra wrote:A question. BSO under Munch. Best BSO ever?
No way! Münch was an easy-going rehearser and let the orchestra get away with a lot of sloppy and coarse playing. This may not be reflected in RCA Victor's studio recordings, in which the recording engineer could correct balances and the tape editor could patch out the bad bits, but I heard plenty of it when a college student in the Boston area during the late '50s and early '60s. Leinsdorf and Steinberg got them into much better shape, but it took some time and some doing.

What I never heard in person was the BSO in concert under Koussevitzky, but some broadcast recordings confirm impression given by the commercially published sets (mostly recorded direct to 78 rpm discs and thus unedited) that he obtained far more disciplined and polished playing them than Münch. The players liked Münch better because he was easier on them, but that's neither here nor there.
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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by Heck148 » Wed Nov 02, 2011 3:31 pm

slofstra wrote:A question. BSO under Munch. Best BSO ever?
no way....the BSO sounds much better recently under Levine. I think it also sounded better during the earlier part of Koussevitsky's tenure, and at times during Ozawa's...
Munch let the orchestra slide pretty badly, he did not like to rehearse, and he was extremely inconsistent at concerts [partly by design - Munch liked spontaneity :D ]

Monteux had built a very fine French-sounding ensemble after the WWI disaster, and the devastating strike of 1920. this basically French approach was preserved by Koussevitsky for some time, until he started making erratic appointments later in his tenure. Munch continued this unfortunately, and his appointments produced a pretty motley crew of mavericks, cast-offs, etc. Munch was not the man to bring these characters into line....the BSO desperately needed a Monteux, Reiner, Steinberg, Szell in the early 60s, but they were all busy elsewhere.

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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by Lance » Wed Nov 02, 2011 3:48 pm

Hard to know the most appropriate adjectives to use for Munch. I am aware of some of his faults, such as sloppy rehearsals and lack of discipline with the orchestra, however, his Mendelssohn and Brahms symphonies were splendid, as was his Berlioz. His Les Nuits d'ete with de Los Angeles and the BSO is the paradigm recording (in mono only). His Rubinstein/Brahms 2nd piano concerto is a revelation. In the end, what we have on records places him high on my list of conductors.
slofstra wrote:
Lance wrote:Among the best (for me) at least in some repertoire. Lots of conjecture over "the best" when it comes to this orchestra. Also, much more "authoritative" for me over Ozawa when it comes to Munch.
slofstra wrote:A question. BSO under Munch. Best BSO ever?
Would the adjectives nimble and highly expressive be appropriate? I wonder if there is a French temperament that affects the style of the BSO under Munch. In any case, the 3 or 4 CDs I've heard this far (of Mendelssohn and Brahms) are a joy to listen to.
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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by Wallingford » Wed Nov 02, 2011 8:20 pm

In view of the many great discs he made with the BSO, I don't care a rat's behind if Munch wasn't the autocratic disciplinarian that a Reiner or Szell were. In my book, the BSO's big golden era was the one embraced by Monteux, Koussevitzky, Munch and (yes) Fiedler.
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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by John F » Wed Nov 02, 2011 10:17 pm

It isn't necessary to be an "autocratic disciplinarian" to get outstanding playing from an orchestra. The career of James Levine, for one, is testimony to the contrary. What's necessary is to care, and to develop the kind of working relationship with the players that gets them to care too and give their best. This does not describe Charles Münch and the Boston Symphony.

That said, the recordings are all that's left of the Münch/BSO time, and they are what this thread is about. slofstra's question, which brought out some well-deserved criticism of the orchestra's work in live concerts, was strictly speaking off-topic. If the RCA Victor recordings flatter the orchestra, and therefore Münch, that's inside information and it shouldn't affect whether people like the recordings in their own right. If they do, that's fine, though I don't personally share the enthusiasm.
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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by slofstra » Wed Nov 02, 2011 11:12 pm

And how do those recordings compare, on balance, with recordings made under Leinsdorf or Steinberg? (Were there any under Steinberg?) I realize it might be impossible to answer a question like that.

I found this rather interesting site containing a BSO discography.
http://www.koussevitzky.com/Html/composers.html

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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by Chalkperson » Thu Nov 03, 2011 1:06 am

Steinberg's Planets with the BSO is exceptional, Leinsdorf I can happily live without...
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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by John F » Thu Nov 03, 2011 3:49 am

slofstra wrote:And how do those recordings compare, on balance, with recordings made under Leinsdorf or Steinberg? (Were there any under Steinberg?) I realize it might be impossible to answer a question like that.
The recordings made under Leinsdorf have the disadvantage of being conducted by Erich Leinsdorf. :) I actually have a few of them, and the playing in works by Prokofiev, Haydn, and Irving Fine is, well, fine. But since these too are studio artifacts they don't necessarily sound like the orchestra in live concert. I remember a couple of Leinsdorf-conducted concerts in Boston during the '60s as being much more shipshape than what I'd been hearing a couple of years earlier under Münch, but that's not what you asked.

By the time William Steinberg became the BSO's conductor, RCA Victor had paid a load of money to win the Philadelphia Orchestra away from Columbia and had lost the BSO to Deutsche Grammophon. I don't know any of the Steinberg recordings, but a Mahler 6 in Symphony Hall was mightily impressive, one of the loudest performances of anything I've ever heard. Michael Tilson Thomas's BSO recording of Tchaikovsky's Symphony #1 is well played.
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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by karlhenning » Thu Nov 03, 2011 5:59 am

By chances most curious, I found myself yesterday in one of the yet-fewer-now brick-&-m. CD shops in town. They're … not going out of business … but renovating their space, and so they're selling off the inventory on three of their floors at a 30% discount. Of course, their Classical section (which has shared a floor with Jazz … and *shudder* Country … for a long time) is part of the sell-off.

One of the chances I speak of, is that I've not been in that shop for many months, and yesterday I happened there when on my way to get lunch at *another* place I've not visited in a similarly long time.

And what should I find there, but this very Munch box. (And other items, to be sure.)

Will listen to a bit of't later to-day.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by karlhenning » Thu Nov 03, 2011 10:37 am

Just listened to the Dvořák Eighth from this box, delicious!

Cheers,
~Karl
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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by ContrapunctusIX » Thu Nov 03, 2011 11:52 am

karlhenning wrote:By chances most curious, I found myself yesterday in one of the yet-fewer-now brick-&-m. CD shops in town. They're … not going out of business … but renovating their space, and so they're selling off the inventory on three of their floors at a 30% discount. Of course, their Classical section (which has shared a floor with Jazz … and *shudder* Country … for a long time) is part of the sell-off.

One of the chances I speak of, is that I've not been in that shop for many months, and yesterday I happened there when on my way to get lunch at *another* place I've not visited in a similarly long time.

And what should I find there, but this very Munch box. (And other items, to be sure.)

Will listen to a bit of't later to-day.

Cheers,
~Karl
based on the description of the Brick&M, I'd guess you were at the FYE at Downtown Crossing, eh?

Honestly these Munch box sets are quite nice, but most of this material (for this box and the other previously release Munch box) has been available in other forms. I have the majority of this material (and all of the material I care about) in a series single CDs acquired over time. That said, for those unfamiliar with the Munch-era BSO, these sets are a great and inexpensive way to get acquainted with these performances, many of which are quite good.

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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by Gregg » Fri Nov 04, 2011 7:08 am

For Munch fans. It's more about LP making, but great none the less. Appologies if this is well known here. It was new to me.

Gregg

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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by Lance » Fri Nov 04, 2011 9:22 pm

My sentiment completely!
karlhenning wrote:Just listened to the Dvořák Eighth from this box, delicious!

Cheers,
~Karl
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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by slofstra » Sat Nov 05, 2011 5:36 pm

Well, there were some interesting responses on the Munch era on this thread. Thanks everyone for the insight. Greg your link is not working, and I would be interested in reading that article if you can fix the link. As far as these particular recordings I will trust my ears and they like what they hear, not that there was any dispute. I first was turned on to Munch by his Beethoven 9th with the BSO, Price and Forrester. I have kept my eyes open for more, ever since.

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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by Heck148 » Sat Nov 05, 2011 10:26 pm

I've always found th eBSO of tha tperiod not that pleasant to listen to - alot of the wind playing is simply not that great - esp when compared to the other major orchestras of the time...
the first trumpet [Voisin] and first trombone [Gibson] are definitely less than first rate, Stagliano[nhI] was at one time a fine player - LA Studio guy who moved around a bit - but substance abuse took its toll on him...the brass section playing was definitely rough going.

I'm not too favorably impressed by the woodwinds either - I've always found Cioffi's [clar I] playing to be rather unpleasant - bright, tinny [glass mouthpiece sound] - phrasing off in his own world much of the time. Dwyer and Walt [Fl/Bssn] could sound OK sometimes, and pretty scruffy at others...the section playing simply was not comparable with that of Chicago, NYPO, Cleveland, Philadelphia. Philsdelphia was not my favorite sound, but the ensemble playing was really exquisite - precision, tone, balance, style = very first-rate.

When I listen to Monteux's BSO recording of Petrushka, I'm impressed by the clarity of the conducting, and the appropriate tempi, and musical ideas - but much of the solo playing seems tentative or labored, compared with other recordings, in which the solo playing is delivered with much more humor, swagger, insouciance, tongue-in-cheek pathos, etc...

same with the Munch complete Daphnis and Chloe - it's OK, but I've heard alot better.

I freely admit to my own prejudices regarding my musical training and education - I studied with NY guys [Wm. Polisi/C. Weait] then went to Eastman which was definitely very strong Chicago, NYPO, Cleveland territory. the BSO style of that period was definitely outside of this performance approach.

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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by Gregg » Sun Nov 06, 2011 9:30 am

slofstra wrote:Well, there were some interesting responses on the Munch era on this thread. Thanks everyone for the insight. Greg your link is not working, and I would be interested in reading that article if you can fix the link. As far as these particular recordings I will trust my ears and they like what they hear, not that there was any dispute. I first was turned on to Munch by his Beethoven 9th with the BSO, Price and Forrester. I have kept my eyes open for more, ever since.
Hi slofstra,

Thank for letting me know. I should have checked. Corrected above as well.

Gregg


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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by slofstra » Sun Nov 06, 2011 6:06 pm

Heck148 wrote:I've always found th eBSO of tha tperiod not that pleasant to listen to - alot of the wind playing is simply not that great - esp when compared to the other major orchestras of the time...
the first trumpet [Voisin] and first trombone [Gibson] are definitely less than first rate, Stagliano[nhI] was at one time a fine player - LA Studio guy who moved around a bit - but substance abuse took its toll on him...the brass section playing was definitely rough going.

I'm not too favorably impressed by the woodwinds either - I've always found Cioffi's [clar I] playing to be rather unpleasant - bright, tinny [glass mouthpiece sound] - phrasing off in his own world much of the time. Dwyer and Walt [Fl/Bssn] could sound OK sometimes, and pretty scruffy at others...the section playing simply was not comparable with that of Chicago, NYPO, Cleveland, Philadelphia. Philsdelphia was not my favorite sound, but the ensemble playing was really exquisite - precision, tone, balance, style = very first-rate.

When I listen to Monteux's BSO recording of Petrushka, I'm impressed by the clarity of the conducting, and the appropriate tempi, and musical ideas - but much of the solo playing seems tentative or labored, compared with other recordings, in which the solo playing is delivered with much more humor, swagger, insouciance, tongue-in-cheek pathos, etc...

same with the Munch complete Daphnis and Chloe - it's OK, but I've heard alot better.

I freely admit to my own prejudices regarding my musical training and education - I studied with NY guys [Wm. Polisi/C. Weait] then went to Eastman which was definitely very strong Chicago, NYPO, Cleveland territory. the BSO style of that period was definitely outside of this performance approach.
I've been wondering if that's the very thing I like about them. They don't have that well varnished sheen of say, the BPO of the time. And the tempi seem to shift at times (I can't think of which Brahms symphony I noticed that in.) But they can pack a wallop at times and there seem to be surprises around every corner. Maybe they're the garage band of the classical world. :)
But the CSO under Reiner also impresses me greatly and the sound is entirely different.
The question I have is that for all the BSO lacked in discipline, is it reasonable to say that the individual players were still highly competent musicians. Because I hear a lot of sparkle in the playing.

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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by Heck148 » Sun Nov 06, 2011 7:38 pm

slofstra wrote:I've been wondering if that's the very thing I like about them. They don't have that well varnished sheen of say, the BPO of the time.
I don't find that sound to be much to my liking, either - the HvK mono-tonous sound - everything rounded off, blended, smoothed over, ultra creamy and lush...never enough accent, "bite", "edge" to the sound.
And the tempi seem to shift at times
that was Munch, he liketto do that at concerts and recordings - the players never knew what was coming. Munch liked "spontaneity"....
But the CSO under Reiner also impresses me greatly and the sound is entirely different.
Now, that was an orchestral sound to beat all - great solo work, and incredibly fine section and ensemble playing. wondeful flexibility and responsiveness - the softest softs, changing to instantaneous, ear-splitting eruptions of sound. Reine rloved the shock power of sound - and dynamic contrast is what sets it up.
The question I have is that for all the BSO lacked in discipline, is it reasonable to say that the individual players were still highly competent musicians.
"competent", yes I suppose, tho I don't rate the aforementioned too highly in the pantheon of great orchestral musicians...there sure were some weak players in the BSO of those years...
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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by gfweis » Sun Nov 06, 2011 7:40 pm

As the subject of Steinberg's recordings with the BSO has been raised, I feel obliged to mention his excellent Schubert 9th:

http://www.amazon.com/Schubert-Symphony ... B00000E6KH

I myself have not heard the cd, but I do have the lp:

http://www.amazon.com/Schubert-Symphony ... B001PDNBLG
Greg Weis

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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by karlhenning » Mon Nov 07, 2011 9:18 am

Heck148 wrote:I've always found th eBSO of tha tperiod not that pleasant to listen to - alot of the wind playing is simply not that great - esp when compared to the other major orchestras of the time...
the first trumpet [Voisin] and first trombone [Gibson] are definitely less than first rate, Stagliano[nhI] was at one time a fine player - LA Studio guy who moved around a bit - but substance abuse took its toll on him...the brass section playing was definitely rough going.

I'm not too favorably impressed by the woodwinds either - I've always found Cioffi's [clar I] playing to be rather unpleasant - bright, tinny [glass mouthpiece sound] - phrasing off in his own world much of the time. Dwyer and Walt [Fl/Bssn] could sound OK sometimes, and pretty scruffy at others...the section playing simply was not comparable with that of Chicago, NYPO, Cleveland, Philadelphia.
You're perfectly right, and perfectly fair, here. I've been enjoying the recordings for such merits as they have, and for the interest of the "sonic snapshot" of the band at that time . . . but I agree completely that there is better to be heard, and indeed that the band these days is a delight to hear, and several ranks above these historical docs.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by Jared » Fri Nov 11, 2011 4:38 pm

at the risk of going off topic here, what do CMGers think of Munch's 'Berlioz: Requiem'? I have long thought about purchasing a copy...

many thanks

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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by Lance » Sat Nov 12, 2011 3:21 am

If you are referring to the Berlioz Requiem/Munch on RCA [6210 or 66373], for me this remains a top-rated choice for yours truly. It was from the days I first had the glorious Soria series deluxe LP edition. Berlioz, if one has to select just one composer, was among the finest composers ever to have been led by Charles Munch. Tenor Leopold Simoneau's voice is perfect for this music. I have been content to just have the RCA issue at this point though the DGG issue (with Peter Schreier, tenor) [477 7561] is amongst those on my want list.
Jared wrote:at the risk of going off topic here, what do CMGers think of Munch's 'Berlioz: Requiem'? I have long thought about purchasing a copy...

many thanks
Lance G. Hill
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Jared
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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by Jared » Sat Nov 12, 2011 5:26 am

^^ thank you Lance, it is the DGG version I have in my basket at present... and I think it will be in the next round of purchases... 8)

maestrob
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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by maestrob » Sat Nov 12, 2011 12:32 pm

Jared wrote:at the risk of going off topic here, what do CMGers think of Munch's 'Berlioz: Requiem'? I have long thought about purchasing a copy...

many thanks
Jared:

If it's any help, I think the RCA with the Canadian tenor Simoneau (husband to coloratura soprano Pierrette Alarie) is the way to go, and not just because it's available in SACD..... :wink:

Jared
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Re: Charles Munch: Late Romantic Masterpieces [7 CD set]

Post by Jared » Sat Nov 12, 2011 12:39 pm

^^ thanks mb... duly noted.. 8)

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