B1342. CHARLES MÜNCH. I am a Conductor [Autobiography]. New York, Oxford University Press, 1955. 104pp. Münch repertoire with B.S.O. in his first five seasons; DJ.
“In a fine little volume that deals explicitly with the elements of an art, a famous conductor addresses those who wish to serve music. To conducting - which is more than a profession - one must bring dedication, and the story of Münch's own glorious career weaves naturally through the expression of his persuasion.”
- Kirkus Review
“If Fritz Reiner and George Szell were the great Apollonian perfectionists of conducting in the middle part of the 20th century, Charles Münch was the great Dionysian ecstatic. 'Concert time', the Alsatian conductor wrote, ‘is when feelings must be made to reach an extreme of intensity. This is a fundamental mission of the conductor’.
If Münch's pursuit of intense expression often made his performances feel highly strung, there was always a sense of deep engagement in the music that inspired a similarly profound involvement from the musicians who played under him, as well as from his listeners.
It always seemed odd that the most important ‘French conductor of his generation, who made the Boston Symphony Orchestra the greatest ‘French’ orchestra in the world during his fabled tenure as music director (1949-1962), was virtually ignored by biographers.
Not for Münch the anonymous, machine-tooled music-making that is so prevalent today. Nothing in a Münch performance was exactly as rehearsed, and timings could vary by as much as five minutes from one performance to another Spontaneity was his middle name. He could be impulsive, unpredictable, un-meticulous when it came to technical detail. Achieving beauty and transparency of sound for its own sake did not interest him. Yet, through musical command and sheer force of personality, he could rouse an audience to a frenzy of excitement.
Münch and the Boston Symphony became serious money-makers for RCA Victor, leaving a recorded legacy of some 80 LPs, most of which have been reissued on CD. It is a rich discography that attests not only to the conductor's mastery in the Gallic repertory but also to his immense authority as an interpreter of Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Wagner and Strauss as well.
What Munch's discography fails to suggest was his wide-ranging commitment to contemporary music. In Boston, as my colleague Alan G. Artner once noted, he programmed no fewer than 168 contemporary works, including 36 by Americans. There was new music on almost every subscription concert. How times have changed!”
- John von Rhein, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 15 Feb., 2012
“The great conductor Charles Münch was born and raised in Strasbourg. The son of a musician, the nephew of Albert Schweitzer, originally a violinist, he became a professor of the Strasbourg Conservatory. In 1926 he was appointed concert master under Wilhelm Fürtwangler at Leipzig. After the accession to power of the Nazis, Münch left Germany and moved to Paris. He made his début in Paris as a conductor, where he founded the Orchestre Philharmonique de Paris in 1935. In 1938 he was put in charge of the Societé des Concerts du Conservatorie, which he directed until 1946. He used that position during the war and throughout the German occupation to protect French musicians and turned his salary over to the French underground. After the War he was awarded the Legion of Honor. In 1946 he made his American début with the Boston Symphony. After touring the United States and Canada with the Orchestre National in 1948, he was asked to replace the ailing Serge Koussevitzky as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra which remained one of the greatest orchestras in the world until he resigned in 1962. During his 13 years in Boston he won five new York Music Critics Circle awards, and many other for his outstanding recordings.”
- Zillah Dorset Akron