Charles Munch in New York = DEBUSSY: Iberia; RAVEL: Le Tombeau de Couperin; Daphnis et Chloe–Suite No. 2; ROUSSEL: Bacchus et Ariane–Suite No. 2 – NBC Symphony Orchestra/New York Philharmonic (Daphnis)/Charles Munch cond. – Music & Arts

by | Mar 11, 2008 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Charles Munch in New York = DEBUSSY: Iberia; RAVEL: Le Tombeau de Couperin; Daphnis et Chloe–Suite No. 2; ROUSSEL: Bacchus et Ariane–Suite No. 2 – NBC Symphony Orchestra/New York Philharmonic (Daphnis)/Charles Munch cond.

Music & Arts CD-1208,  68:13 (Distrib. Albany) ****:

When Arturo Toscanini canceled a scheduled concert with his NBC Symphony Orchestra 28 March 1954, producer David Sarnoff contacted Charles Munch (1891-1968), then serving his fifth year at the helm of the Boston Symphony, to fill in with a program of Gallic specialties. This program appeared, minus the Daphnis et Chloe, on the Guild label (GHCD 2327) several months ago. The Guild liner notes provide the eight sections of the Roussel, while the M&A notes (by my old “First Hearing” comrade, John Canarina) do not.  At that time, I was in error not to have credited Munch with a 1950 commercial reading of the Roussel, whose performance here is quite spirited, given his penchant for cutting around and into the Bacchanale.

The main attraction of the program proves to be Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin suite, which he never inscribed commercially. Always the impulsive romantic, Munch would often vacillate his tempos between rehearsals and actual performance, depending on the spur of the moment to decide what he wanted, which were often fast tempos and ignored repeats. The opening of Iberia, for instance, sets a strong and resolute pace which the Perfumes of the Night counters with a hint of oriental languor. The NBC wind, harp, and viola section luxuriate in the soft palette, wafting all kinds of fragrant temptations about. Visions of Hedy Lamarr and Charles Boyer in the Casbah, if not the Alhambra. The last tones point to the feria that breaks out in the whipped-up Morning of the Festival Day. Munch has the NBC working at bravura level–particularly violin Mischa Mischakoff–much as they must for their normal Maestro.  The trumpet section and pizzicato strings have our feet pounding our best fandango rhythms as Munch charges to the final peroration with gleeful abandon.

The Tomb or Tribute to Couperin consists of four movements, prominent in their oboe part  and their liquid yet severe lines along classical and pre-classical procedures. Transparency and innately idiomatic phrasing characterize the swirling Prelude and cantering, sec Forlane, with the oboe punctuating the filigree with articulate cadences. The svelte Menuet urges the lovely oboe solo over a cushion of soft and undulant sounds, Ali Baba in the Garden of Delights. If this music be in memoriam for fallen soldiers, it eulogizes what pleasures they are denied. The Rigaudon moves quite briskly, with Harry Glantz pushing his weighty trumpet for all he is worth to provide articulate cadences.

The familiar Suite No. 2 from Daphnis et Chloe from the NY Philharmonic has long been a prized, virtuoso staple to show off the diaphanous colors of any well-honed ensemble, and Munch has the NBC playing aerial songs, worthy of Hopkins’ poem, The Windhover. Munch made his New York Philharmonic debut in 1947 and returned through 1949, even recording Saint-Saens and Mozart with the ensemble. The flute part (John Wummer?) is particularly pointed, and the final Danse generale flies in the face of any “balletic” constraints and becomes nothing less than demonized. Even as the music passes through references to the opening motifs, the blazing tempo has the effect resembling the last movement of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. Quite thrilling, as Munch could often be when those French fires started burning. 

— Gary Lemco
 

Related Reviews
Logo Pure Pleasure
Logo Apollo's Fire
Logo Crystal Records Sidebar 300 ms
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01