MENDELSSOHN: Symphony No. 4 in A “Italian;” Symphony No. 5 in D “Reformation;” Scherzo from Octet in E Flat – Boston Symphony Orchestra/ Charles Munch – RCA Red Seal Living Stereo

by | Mar 8, 2006 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

MENDELSSOHN: Symphony No. 4 in A “Italian;” Symphony No. 5 in D “Reformation;” Scherzo from Octet in E  Flat – Boston Symphony Orchestra/ Charles Munch – RCA Red Seal Living Stereo Multichannel (3-channel) SACD 82876-71616-2, 57:59 ****:

A most agreeable combination of one of the world’s greatest orchestras (and halls) in its golden age, preserved in the glorious sonics of classical recording’s golden age.  Munch was a master of Romantic period works and at his best in these three-channel tapings made in Boston’s Symphony Hall in l957 thru 1960. Surprisingly, these two symphonies were not previously reissued in the various Living Stereo reincarnations on CD, and the encore of the one movement of the Mendelssohn Octet is the first time it has been released on any CD.

The sound is rich and full with a very wide soundstage when played back in three-channel mode. While it would be nice to have some ambiance going to the surround channels, one really doesn’t miss it seriously since the frontal area is so impressive sonically.  A similar approach was used in the remastering to that employed in the acclaimed Mercury Living Presence SACDs – playing the tapes on specially-tweaked analog decks and feeding directly to the DSD converters with no EQ or other modifications.  This is as close as collectors will ever come to hearing the original master tapes in the studio.

The Italian Symphony doesn’t try to include Italian folk themes in its symphonic structure, but it does have a tuneful and sunny disposition;  the composer was happy while working on it in Rome. The Reformation Symphony is so called due to its use of A Mighty Fortress is Our God in the Choral finale of the work. The theme’s development shows the veneration the composer had for J.S. Bach. Hard to believe the lovely little Scherzo filler is from a 16-year-old Mendelssohn.  Too bad we don’t have the entire Octet with these forces.

– John Sunier

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