C1411. CHARLES MÜNCH Cond. Boston S.O., Harvard Glee Club, Radcliffe Choral Society, Adele Addison, Eleanor Davis, Richard Gilley & Donald Gramm: Regina coeli, K.108; Vesperae de dominica, K.321 (both Mozart); Réquiem (Fauré). (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-308, Live Performance, 9 March, 1955, Symphony Hall, Boston. 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
“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
“Soprano Adele Addison is best known as the singing voice of Bess, portrayed on-screen by Dorothy Dandridge, in the 1959 film version of PORGY AND BESS. Addison made her NYC recital début in 1952 and began studying at Juilliard, débuting with the New York City Opera as Mimi in LA BOHEME in 1955. Though offered operatic roles, Addison chose to perform primarily in recital and concert, and developed a collaborative relationship with Leonard Bernstein, singing under his baton at the 1962 opening of Lincoln Center's Philharmonic Hall. Addison taught voice at SUNY Stony Brook, Eastman School of Music, Aspen Music Festival and the Manhattan School of Music, where she also served as chair of the voice department.”
- OPERA NEWS, 16 Feb., 2013
“Donald Gramm, a distinguished, aristocratic American bass-baritone, was unusual for an American singer because [his career] was concentrated almost entirely in this country. His work was divided between opera and concert appearances. He sang…with the Metropolitan and New York City Operas, as well with opera companies, symphony orchestras and chamber series all over the country.
His voice ranged from the lowest bass notes into the upper baritone reaches. He had an unusually rich, noble tone, and although its volume may not have been large, it penetrated even the biggest theaters easily. Technically, he could handle bel-canto ornamentation fluently. But his real strengths lay in his aristocratic musicianship (impeccable phrasing that he polished by accompanying himself at the piano, and an easy command of five languages) and his instinctive acting.
Mr. Gramm's reviews were a litany of raves. In 1974, Harold C. Schonberg said in The New York Times that Mr. Gramm 'could not be faulted’ as Sancho Panza in a Boston staging of Massenet's DON QUICHOTTE, and added that ‘he never gives a bad performance’. In 1977, Donal Henahan of The Times called Mr. Gramm ‘the premiere American male singer of art songs, an important artist at his peak’.
Following his New York City Opera début as Colline in Puccini's LA BOHEME in 1952, Mr. Gramm sang with the City Opera nearly every season for more than 30 years. He made his début at the Met on 10 Jan., 1964, as Truffaldino in Richard Strauss' ARIADNE AUF NAXOS....His principal bases for major roles became Sarah Caldwell's Opera Company of Boston and John Crosby's Santa Fe Opera, where he often sang unusual or contemporary repertory. Eventually, he assumed major parts at the Met as well, including the Doctor in Berg's WOZZECK, Papageno and Leporello in Mozart's DON GIOVANNI, Alfonso in COSI and Waldner in Richard Strauss' ARABELLA. In Europe, he sang at festivals in Spoleto, Aix-en-Provence and Glyndebourne.
Miss Caldwell remained his most stalwart champion. ‘Donald's high level of musicianship and intelligence and his beautiful voice are attributes which make him the logical choice of a conductor’, she told The Times in 1975. ‘His remarkable ability for physical characterization and his deep interest in its development make him the logical choice of a stage director. This fusion of musical and dramatic abilities sets him apart as one of the most extraordinary singing actors of our time’."
- John Rockwell, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 3 June, 1983