C1385. CHARLES MÜNCH, Vol. III, Cond. Boston S.O.: Concerto for Orchestra in d (Vivaldi) [To the memory of Guido Cantelli]; Symphony #2 in D (Honegger); w.IRMGARD SEEFRIED: Das Marienleben (Hindemith); Wedding Cantata (Bach). (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-300, Live Performance, 30 Nov., 1956, Symphony Hall, Boston. [Never previously issued.] Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“It’s difficult to articulate what makes Münch’s conducting special – or indeed if there even is anything identifiably unique about it. A lesser talent would simply turn out generic, cookie-cutter performances; but Münch was anything but generic. He was one of the most musical of conductors; in so many of his performances, everything simply sounds ‘right’. Certainly, his experience as an orchestral musician gave him a lot of practical insight into the mechanics of directing orchestra traffic. But a classic Münch interpretation never sounds calculated. Spontaneity was one of his hallmarks, sometimes to the surprise and discomfort of the musicians playing under him. From one night to the next, a Münch performance of the same piece might be very different, depending on his mood of the moment – yet it would always sound like Münch.”
- Lawrence Hansen, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Nov./Dec., 2012
“Charles Münch served in the German Army in WWI, but was a staunch defender of the French Resistance in WWII. Münch was a violinist by training (concertmaster under Walter and Furtwängler) and did not take up conducting until his 40s. He conducted in Europe at the beginning and end of his career, but made his biggest mark as Director of the Boston Symphony from 1949 to 1962. Perhaps owing to his many years as an orchestral player, he was a relaxed conductor, contrasting sharply with the dictatorial tendencies of both his predecessor Koussevitzky and his successor Leinsdorf….In Boston, Münch was particularly admired for his French music, especially Berlioz, Debussy, and Ravel.”
- Paul L. Althouse, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Nov./Dec., 2012
“A genial conductor with a particular gift for French music, Charles Münch extended the Boston Symphony's glory years (begun under the baton of Serge Koussevitzky) into the early '60s. Münch was born in the province of Alsace-Lorraine, which at the time (1891) was controlled by Germany and has long hovered between two cultural worlds. Münch himself benefited from both French and German musical training, and his first important musical posts were in Germany. Yet he came to be regarded as the quintessential French conductor, and his recordings of French repertory with the Boston Symphony remain standards by which others are judged. Münch studied violin at the Strasbourg Conservatory, where his father was a professor, and, from 1912, in Paris with Lucien Capet. As an Alsatian, he was conscripted into the German army at the outbreak of World War I. Gassed and wounded as an artillery sergeant, he nevertheless survived the war through sheer resiliency. In 1919, upon returning to Alsace-Lorraine (now back in French hands), he took French citizenship, and a violin professorship in Strasbourg. Nevertheless, his professional interests soon sent him to Germany; he studied violin with Carl Flesch in Berlin, then moved to Leipzig to take a violin professorship at the conservatory there, and then became concertmaster of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra from 1926 to 1933, during Furtwängler's tenure.
But it was back in Paris, in 1933, where Münch made his successful conducting debut in a self-financed concert with the Straram Orchestra. He conducted the Paris Orchestre de la Société Philharmonique (1935-1938) and in 1937 was named director of the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire de Paris, a post he held through World War II. Münch introduced many new works, including, in 1945, Messiaen's L'Ascension; he quickly became known as a conductor attentive to music's larger formal structures, as well as details of color and sonority. Despite his allegiances 25 years before, Münch refused to collaborate with the Nazis, and indeed supported the French resistance; he was awarded the Légion d'honneur in 1945.
Münch's career quickly accelerated after the war. In 1946, he made his debut with the Boston Symphony (and several other American orchestras) as a guest conductor, and he toured America with the French National Radio Orchestra in 1948. The following year, he was appointed music director of the Boston Symphony, which he took on an unprecedented tour of the Soviet Union in 1956. Münch retired from the BSO in 1962 but continued to guest conduct, and helped Serge Baudo launch the Orchestre de Paris in 1967. On tour in America with that orchestra, he died the following year.
Münch was easygoing in rehearsal, reluctant to drill the spontaneity out of an orchestra. He was particularly noted as an elegant, colorful interpreter of French music of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; his recordings of that material with the Boston Symphony for RCA are still regarded as classics of their kind. He was a strong advocate for the Franco-Swiss composers of his own generation, especially Roussel, Milhaud, and Honegger. But he also had a good touch with the conservative contemporary music of other lands, as may be heard in his few but important recordings of Martinu, Piston, and Barber. Indeed, during his Boston years Münch's commitment to American music was almost as strong as his allegiance to new French works.”
- James Reel, allmusic.com
“In the 1940's and early 1950's, Irmgard Seefried was a paragon among German lyric sopranos, her voice fresh and crystalline, her stage presence vital and attractive. Although she was an intelligent and well-prepared artist, the impression she made was one of considerable spontaneity. Her Susanna in LE NOZZE DI FIGARO and Pamina in DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE were very different creations, the first piquant and cunning, the latter direct and innocent, though never the pallid personality others have imposed upon her. Her Composer in Strauss' ARIADNE AUF NAXOS was a defining interpretation, ardently sung and passionately acted. It was captured in live performance in 1944 and, again, in the studio a decade later when her voice was at its zenith.
She studied at Augsburg University, first with Albert Meyer and, later, with Paola Novikova (with whom she continued to work long after her career was established). Her stage début took place at Aachen in 1940 when she sang the Priestess in a production of AÏDA. After Nuri in d'Albert's TIEFLAND, she was shocked to find that the theater's music director, Herbert von Karajan, had scheduled her for Donna Anna in DON GIOVANNI. As she acknowledged later, she ‘got away’ with the role due to the theater's small size and a very lyric approach to the highly dramatic role.
After three years in Aachen, Seefried moved to Vienna where she joined that theater's ensemble of extraordinary Mozart singers. Her wartime performances were accomplished under circumstances of utter privation: little heat, little food, repeated trips to shelters during both rehearsals and performances. Seefried's Eva under Karl Böhm established her as an artist with an unlimited future and she quickly became a favorite with the Vienna public. She was honored by being chosen to appear as the Composer in ARIADNE to celebrate Richard Strauss' 80th birthday and in 1946 made her first appearance at Salzburg where her Pamina became legendary. London heard her in 1947 when she performed Susanna and Fiordiligi with the visiting Vienna Opera. Susanna served for her début role at La Scala in 1949.
Although her Susanna was well-received at the Metropolitan Opera in November 1953, Seefried did not return to that theater, but did make memorable appearances with Chicago's Lyric Opera beginning in 1961. Chicago heard her Zerlina and Marzelline in her début year and her still-wonderful Composer in 1964.
In addition to opera, Seefried was a first-rank interpreter of Lieder and a concert singer much in demand. In her prime years, her singing of the soprano solo portions of Bach's ST. MATTHEW PASSION, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and, above all, Haydn's CREATION was unsurpassed. She performed all three of these works with Wilhelm Furtwängler, an influential guide and mentor. Seefried's recitals at Salzburg and elsewhere came to be treasured events. Many of her earlier Lieder recordings support the reputation she enjoyed among connoisseurs of beautiful and communicative singing.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
“Each of these disks, from Canadian engineer Yves St Laurent… [feature] St Laurent's natural transfer – made without filtering, like all his dubbings – it is easy to listen to, despite the surface noise.”
- Tully Potter, CLASSICAL RECORD QUARTERLY, Summer, 2011