Charles Munch / Boston Symphony Orchestra

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Neither of the two Mozart symphonies featured on this DVD have been commercially recorded by Charles Munch, who gives his all in these exhilarating performances from a committed Boston Symphony Orchestra. The ICA Classics Legacy series represents an historic account of performances by some of the world’s greatest artists. This DVD features some of the earliest televised concerts with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and their Music Director, Charles Munch. While the material has been restored using the greatest care and state-of-the-art techniques, certain visual artefacts and distortions remain in some instances due to the age of the film. Despite this, it remains of exceptional musical interest and historic value and is released here for the first time on DVD.

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Munch obviously loved Handel’s Suite from Water music, which he invariably performed in the edition that the Irish composer and conductor Sir Hamilton Harty made in 1922 (an arrangement for modern orchestra and a version which proved immensely popular for decades until the historically informed performance movement came along in the 1960s and changed our minds about how the music ought to sound). Between 1949 and 1966, Munch led the BSO in the Suite 53 times. During their tour in 1960, they performed the two last movements along as encores, performing them in twelve cities.

Munch was never especially noted for his Mozart, but it is still a surprise to discover that he made commercial recordings of only two works by Mozart with the BSO, even though he led the “Prague” and “Linz” symphonies a few times. His principal flautist, Doriot Anthony Dwyer (who was the first woman to hold a principal position, apart from harp, in an American orchestra), recently watched some of this programme and said: “He did everything well; he was a strong musician, so of course his Mozart was good.” Asked what she would say about Munch to someone who had not encountered his conducting before, she had only two words: “Watch out!”
Charles Munch, the BSO, and the television.

Between 1955 and 1979, Boston’s public television station WGBH televised more than one hundred and fifty live concerts by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. More than a hundred of these performances survive in the archives of the station and of the Boston Symphony. Because they exist in several generations of various media and have been surrounded by legal issues, access had been impossible, even for researchers, let alone for the interested musical public. This programme, as well as most of the ICA Classics collection programmes, is available for the first time.

Music director Charles Munch launched the Boston Symphony Orchestra into television in 1955. “Le Beau Charles,” as he was sometimes called, was appointed in Boston in 1949, while he was by 58 years old and in his seventeenth season as a conductor. This position brought him to the summit of his career. He spent thirteen years as music director in Boston, during which he explored a wide range of repertoire.


George Frideric Handel / Sir Hamilton Harty, Water Music Suite
1. Allegro
2. Air
3. Allegro deciso

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Symphony No. 36 in C Major, K. 425 “Linz”
1. Adagio – Allegro spiritoso
2. Andante
3. Menuetto – Trio
4. Finale: Presto

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Symphony No. 38 in D Major, K. 504 “Prague”
1. Adagio – Allegro
2. Andante
3. Finale: Presto

Directed by: David M. Davis & Whitney Thomson
Venue: Sanders Theatre, Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA)
Production date: 2012
Recording date: 1958-1960
Duration: 1 h 02 min
Production: © Boston Symphony Orchestra & WGBH Educational Foundation under exclusive licence to International Classical Artists Ltd

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