Boston Symphony Orchestra, Charles Munch – Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4 “Italian” & Symphony No. 5 “Reformation” (2006) [Hybrid-SACD] MCH SACD ISO + Hi-Res FLAC

Felix Mendelssohn – Symphony No. 4 “Italian” & Symphony No. 5 “Reformation”
Boston Symphony Orchestra / Charles Munch (conductor)
SACD ISO (2.0/MCH): 2,37 GB | 24B/88,2kHz Stereo FLAC: 1,04 GB | Full Artwork | 5% Recovery Info
Label/Cat#: RCA Red Seal “Living Stereo” # 82876-71616-2 | Country/Year: US 2006 (1957, 1958, 1960)
Genre: Classical | Style: Viennese School

One has to chuckle at some covers. The picture depicts the Arch of Titus, with what possibly is a pine tree at the edge of the photograph. Yet, when one turns to the jacket of Respighi’s ‘Pines of Rome’ in the same SACD series, what does one see? Very few, if any pines.

This SACD of vintage Munch performances also includes a cherishable bonus, the famous scherzo from the octet.
It is interesting to compare the ‘Italian’ symphony to Szell’s 1962 performance, also on SACD. The only deficiency in the Munch is the absence of the first movement exposition repeat, which Szell observes. Szell’s performance could well be described as ‘brilliant’, the outer movements bursting out of the starting blocks and maintaining this pace to the end. Some might find this verging on the militant.

Munch’s tempi are less fleet. Indeed, all the movements in this disc strike a happy medium. The orchestra is recorded slightly more closely than Szell’s Clevelanders. The string sound of the Boston orchestra consequently sounds fuller. The woodwinds have a slight but appealing nasality which I gather represents the orchestra’s Gallic tinge during the Munch era. The brass has presence and bite, without blare. Throughout the performances of both symphonies, I was reminded of Munch’s conducting of Berlioz. Szell’s phrasing sounds leaner, more streamlined, and aimed to contain longer stretches of music.

In contrast, Munch’s style, especially amongst the strings, presents more highly moulded and articulated phrasing. Every now and then, the strings will ‘dig in’ over some notes, before relaxing the pressure to allow details from the woodwind to suddenly shine through. One is reminded here of Berlioz’s orchestration and melodic writing, with the quicksilver and unexpected handovers of melody from one set of instruments to another. This is not to say that Munch’s performance is maverick, nor that he moulds the music in a style at odds with the composer’s intentions. The shifts in emphasis are subtle, but audible if one is alert. In other words, there is more to discover the more one listens, unlike some superficially more exciting renditions. ( Szell is brilliant and not superficial, although charm is jettisoned along the way.) Munch’s inner movements may in principle lean towards the stately, but because of the detailed perspectives, especially from the woodwinds, there is so much of interest that one welcomes unhurried tempi. These comments I aim mainly at the ‘Italian’. I am almost certain he weaves the same individual magic in the ‘Reformation’, but as I barely know the piece, I’m not familiar with the standard interpretative formulae for these nuances. This is the first time I have actually found the ‘Reformation’ symphony semi-interesting, so it must function as an enthusiastic welcome.

The sound has remarkable little tape hiss, and is typical of the Boston recordings from this source. The strings are warm and solid, the brass not as piercing and obviously virtuostic as at Chicago, the stereo spread rather wide but without a hole in the middle, the orchestra bathed in a lush but not overresonant acoustic.

Copyright © 2006 Ramesh Nair and

SACD Info:

Felix Mendelssohn – Symphony No. 4 “Italian” & Symphony No. 5 “Reformation”

Boston Symphony Orchestra / Charles Munch (conductor)

Label: RCA Red Seal
Series: Living Stereo
Catalog#: 82876-71616-2
Format: Hybrid-SACD, Album, Reissue, Stereo, Multichannel
Country: US
Released: 2006 (1957, 1958, 1960)
Genre: Classical
Style: Viennese School


1 Allegro Vivace 8:06
2 Andante Con Moto 5:56
3 Con Moto Moderato 6:26
4 Saltarello: Presto 6:06
5 Andante; Allegro Con Fuoco 10:43
6 Allegro Vivace 4:12
7 Andante 3:24
8 Chorale (‘ein’ Feste Burg Ist Unser Gott’): Andante Con Moto;Allegro Vivace 8:56
9 Octet In E-Flat, Op. 20 – Scherzo: Allegro Leggierissimo 4:09




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