BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 5 in C Minor; Symphony No. 6 in F Major — Boston Symphony Orchestra/ Charles Munch — RCA Living Stereo

by | Aug 23, 2005 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67; Symphony No. 6 in
F Major, Op. 68 – Boston Symphony Orchestra/Charles Munch – RCA Living
Stereo Multichannel SACD 82876-67898-2  68:45****:

Originally recorded May (C Minor) and August (Pastoral) 1955 in
two-track stereo, remastering supervisor John Newton, along with DSD
engineer Dirk Sobotka, has revitalized two of the Charles Munch
Beethoven symphonies with astonishing results. The C Minor Symphony
seems to have a dusty film removed and now pierces the air with a
take-no-prisoners aural presence that quite literally recaptures
Goethe’s first impression of this Herculean work: “When I reached for
my hat at the fading of the last chord, I could not find my
head.”  The sonic refurbishings are too many to name, but one
might hearken to the pipings of the flutes and winds in the second
movement, or the tympani ostinati in the segue to the finale from a
crisp, ripping Scherzo-Allegro. The purity of playing from Boston
Symphony commends itself anew as well, since the brass section, except
when heard live at Symphony Hall, never sounded so good.

The sonic gloss for the Pastoral is equally lovely, though I find the
Munch approach to the first movement a bit hard-driven, a la Kleiber.
The transition from oboe to cello line in the second movement, though,
is a model of what superior American ensembles can sound like when
discipline is superb. Add whiplash accuracy from clarinet, bassoon, and
French horns, and you have a glamorous mix. The conception is in the
Toscanini mold, long phrases and a high singing line with no repeats.
But Nature unfolds itself in a colossal scheme of arches and rainbow
colors. I now wonder how the Reiner Pastoral would emerge in this
remastered format. I state my query because the volatility and clean,
driven sweep of Munch’s strings equal anything achieved in
Chicago.  The Peasant Dance has Breughel shaking hands with
Wagner. I could not wait for the Thunderstorm; the second time around,
I raised the volume and drenched myself again. [The same Living Stereo
recording of the Fifth — though not the Sixth — was also on a recent
xrcd reissue which we reviewed Here.  A/B comparison of the two
formats showed the SACD to be sonically superior…Ed.]

–Gary Lemco

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