C1567. CHARLES MUNCH Cond. Boston S.O.: Das alte jahr vergangen ist (Bach); Adagio for Strings (Barber); w. E. Power Biggs: Organ Symphony #3 in c (Saint-Saens); w. Maureen Forrester: Kindertotenlieder; Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (both Mahler). (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-504, Live Performance, 27 Dec., 1958, Symphony Hall, Boston. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
Maureen Forrester, the Canadian contralto was revered for her opulent voice and musical elegance and especially acclaimed for her performances of Mahler; she sang the broader mezzo-soprano repertory, rightly considered herself a contralto, the lowest and rarest female voice. In her prime she was a classic contralto with a plummy, deep-set sound. Yet she had a full-bodied upper voice and could sing passagework in Handel arias with agility. She sang Mahler and German lieder with impeccable diction.
Ms. Forrester was little known in the United States when she made her New York recital début at Town Hall in November 1956 with the pianist John Newmark, who became her longtime accompanist. She won rave reviews. Miss Forrester has a superb voice of generous compass and volume, Edward Downes wrote in The New York Times. Its color ranges from a darkly resonant chest register to a brilliantly focused top with a middle register that she makes velvet soft or reedy according to her expressive intent. At the time, the conductor Bruno Walter, who had been a close associate of Mahlers, was looking for a contralto to sing in a performance and a recording of Mahlers Resurrection Symphony with the New York Philharmonic. He invited Ms. Forrester, then 27, to sing for him, and hired her. The recording is now considered a classic. Ms. Forrester went on to record Mahlers DAS LIED VON DER ERDE with Walter and soon became an acknowledged exponent of Mahler. She was best known for her recital work and performances with orchestras, and appeared with many leading conductors, including Eugene Ormandy, Herbert von Karajan and Leonard Bernstein.
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 17 June, 2010
"From the late 1930s on, E. Power Biggs was a dominant figure in this country in arousing interest in serious organ music and in changing the style of its performance. Through his concert tours, weekly recitals over Columbia Broadcasting System's coast to coast network and recordings he reached millions of listeners, persuading them of the glories of organ music and of its authentic performance.
Mr. Biggs was not only a proponent of the works of the old masters. He had Leo Sowerby, the American composer, write an organ concerto. which he premiered with the Boston Symphony under Serge Koussevitzky in 1938. For his broadcasts, he commissioned pieces from Walter Piston, Roy Harris. Howard Hanson. Quincy Porter, Alec Templeton and Benjamin Britten.
About organists, he once said that they 'are often considered to be on the lunatic fringe of musicians, probably because they hang around churches all the time. I advise my pupils to mix with other sorts of musicians, never with organists. The organ is among the most ancient of instruments. Nero played it, which is greatly to his credit. Oh, he had a public be damned attitude, but so do most organists'.
His teachers included the conductor Sir Henry Wood who started him on his career as an organist by asking him to prepare a recital in London's Queen's Hall on two days' notice.
Mr. Biggs' playing was described sometimes as rather cool and reserved, but this followed from his uncompromising attitude toward performance style. His classical austerity irritated organists who preferred grandiloquent romanticized interpretations, but his way was always admired and respected by critics and many musicians."
- Raymond Ericson, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 12 March, 1977
"It is difficult to articulate what makes Munch'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 Munch 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 Munch 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 Munch performance of the same piece might be very different, depending on his mood of the moment, yet it would always sound like Munch.h
- Lawrence Hansen, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Nov./Dec., 2012