SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 1 in B-flat Major, Op. 38, “Spring”; Manfred Overture, Op. 115 – Boston Symphony Orchestra/ Charles Munch – HDTT DVD-R & CD-R

by | Jul 12, 2007 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 1 in B-flat Major, Op. 38, “Spring”; Manfred Overture, Op. 115 – Boston Symphony Orchestra/ Charles Munch – HDTT CD-R &  96K DVD-R 125, 40:19 *****:

The 1955 Munch reading of Schumann’s sunny Spring Symphony receives a glorious revival from HDTT technology–and I knew this was going to be a good one! Tremendous resonance from the BSO strings, horn, and tympani, the line plastic but and fiercely pointed to the natural contour of the passionate phraseology. Even the triangle in the first movement sizzles. We follow Schumann’s development section through woodwinds and bustling agogics whilst the tympani undergirds the colossal tension that heralds the eruption of spring feelings, again with a four-note motif of more than passing homage to Beethoven. The melodic sweep of the Munch concept quite seizes our musical imaginations, and we can hear the BSO’s spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions. This is Wordsworth taken to empyrean heights, and the sonorous hymn and maerchen at the end of the first movement prove a reverential, pantheistic bow to natural harmony.

The Larghetto extends the ecstasy from its first chord, moving through a lightly executed trill to its own hymn to Nature. Explosive cadences mark the motif that Brahms would co-opt for his own Third Symphony. The BSO cello line – Jules Eskin, principal – is a thing of ravishing beauty. So, too, the BSO viola section – Burton Fine, leader. This entire movement makes me salivate to think of what HDTT could do with the Munch version of the Strauss Don Quixote with Piatagorsky. Hardly a beat and we are in the throes of the Scherzo – frothy, militant, dancing rocks cast from the turbulent sea of imagination. Wicked punctuations from horns and strings at the end of the Trio. The da capo is even more resplendent than the opening; the brutally quick second trio is blindingly aggressive; then the lovely legato statement enters prior to the coda, with its oboe solo, the strings and tympani quietly taking their leave.

No mincing of energies for the rollicking Allegro animato e grazioso finale, an orchestral romp par excellence. A combination of moto perpetuo and trumpet voluntary, this whirlwind realization is a triumph of the spirit on every level. Even the transitional string work blisters the ear. Flute solo and arching song from the cellos, hints of Mendelssohn’s own cosmos. Once Munch begins the extended coda, there’s no stopping the musical avalanche. Wow! Three ripping chords and we savor the existential gloom of Byron’s Manfred, recorded 1961. The urgent context of the execution is the same as that for the Spring Symphony. Pulverizing trumpet interjections, anguished string harmonies, a ferocious rush to judgment, a virtuoso performance of the highest order. That Munch could be one of the most exciting conductors of his generation has this disc as living witness. Though I am stingy with kudos for discs that last under 60 minutes, this HDTT goes on our Best of the Year list for certain!

[Agreed. Though I didn’t have the 44.1K CD-R for comparison, I would say the 96K DVD-R version must surpass even that effort.  So if your DVD player is capable of outputting 96K, don’t hesitate to order that version rather than the CD.  Neither did I have the original RCA Living Stereo LP to compare, but the richness of the sonics plus the sense of “air” around the soloists was so similar to the best vinyl analog reproduction that I would venture only the highest-end vinyl playback system could equal or surpass this DVD-R…Ed.]

— Gary Lemco

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