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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


Camille SAINT-SAňNS (1835-1921)
Symphony No.3 in C minor, op.78 Organ (1886) [31:11]
Vincent d’INDY (1851-1931)
Symphony on a French mountain air, Op.25 (1886) [25:04]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major K467 (1785) [27:28]
Radio introductions by Deems Taylor and talks [1:19 + 3:11 + 1:56 + 1:02]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Symphony No. 35 in D major, K385 Haffner (1783) [16:23]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Piano Concerto No.2 in A major, S.125 (1839-40, rev. 1849, 1861) [19:14]
Emmanuel CHABRIER (1841-1894)
Bourrťe fantasque (1891, orch. Mottl, 1897) [5:18]
Robert Casadesus (piano: d’Indy, Liszt, Mozart);
…douard Nies-Berger (organ); Walter Hendl and Arthur Schuller (piano: Saint-SaŽns)
Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York/Charles Munch
rec. November 1947, Carnegie Hall (Saint-SaŽns); December 1948, Columbia 30th Street Studios, NYC (d’Indy and Mozart Concerto): 19 December 1948, live at Carnegie Hall (Mozart Haffner; Liszt; Chabrier)
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC448 [56:00 + 76:58]

It was as a result of Charles Munch’s auspicious and successful debut with the New York Philharmonic in January 1947 that a series of recordings was inaugurated by Columbia later in the year. Munch’s first US record was Saint-SaŽns’ Organ Symphony and this was followed by music from D’Indy and Mozart. What should have been an even greater commitment to documenting the rapport was curtailed by the arrival of Munch’s contract to direct the Boston Symphony.

Rather surprisingly, as Mark Obert-Thorn says in his Producer’s Note, the Organ Symphony was the work’s first outing on disc since Piero Coppola’s set in 1930. High level hiss has been retained the better to preserve the full sonorities of this November 1947 recording. Lean, brisk and tautly alluring it builds on the orchestra’s own sonic profile, with well-articulated winds and fluently delineated string choirs. The organist is Edouard Niels-Berger, the pianists Walter Hendl – soon to be better-known in his own right - and Arthur Schuller. This recording can be profitably compared and contrasted with Munch’s later, much more famous Boston stereo LP, a favourite of many listeners. There’s, however, something charged and biting about this less plush 78rpm reading. For D’Indy’s Symphony on a French Mountain Air Munch’s compatriot Robert Casadesus is the pianist. Elegant, poetic and dashing he is a perfect exponent of the piano role, and Munch was pretty much the ideal conductor of this work, which fortunately exists in other interpretations, notably that of Nicole Henriot-Schweitzer.

The last of the three commercial sets Munch made with the orchestra was of Mozart’s C major Concerto, K467, again with Casadesus and made on the same day as the D’Indy. Casadesus plays a powerful, full-blooded first-movement cadenza – as well he should as it’s his own – but he and Munch conspire to spin a slow movement that I suspect seemed enervating even in 1948. It takes a good while to launch the tempo, and once established it’s followed with dogged slowness. The finale’s well-sprung jauntiness only serves to throw the middle movement’s limpness into relief.

The remainder of the twofer is taken up by a broadcast performance from 19 December 1948, the day before the commercial recording date which produced the D’Indy and Mozart. Casadesus produces as much elegance as fire in Liszt’s A major Concerto and Munch delivers a fine Haffner Symphony albeit his trenchancy in the opening movement is not quite matched by an ability to delineate the orchestration of the Minuetto. Chabrier’s Bourťe fantasque, in Mottl’s orchestration, ends the concert with fiery, rugged strength. The commentator in this broadcast, heard in good sound, is Deems Taylor and I’m glad his spoken comments have been retained.

The transfers are first-class. The concentration on New York recordings and broadcasts of 1947-48 provides a satisfying focus on a symbiotically successful relationship between conductor and orchestra.

Jonathan Woolf



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