MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around

 57,903 reviews
   and more ... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here
Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider


paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas
All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Clarissa Bevilacqua plays
Augusta Read Thomas

all Nimbus reviews

Brahms Dvorak
Brahms 2 Dvorak 7
all tudor reviews



Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Discs for review may be sent to:
Jonathan Woolf
76 Lushes Road
Essex IG10 3QB
United Kingdom



Daniel François Esprit AUBER (1782-1871)
La Muette de Portici – Overture [7:48]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, Op. 10 [26:54]
Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)
Symphony No. 5, Op. 50 [34:08]
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Charles Munch
rec. live, Symphony Hall, Boston, 26 November 1953 (Auber); 8 December 1956 (Britten); 6 November 1953 (Nielsen)

This collection of broadcast performances by Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony offers the chance to hear him conduct two important twentieth-century score by composers with whom one might not associate him.

The Auber overture sits somewhat oddly in the company of Britten and Nielsen but, on the other hand, perhaps it merits its inclusion on the grounds of unfamiliarity: I suspect the piece is not often played these days and it was certainly new to me. La Muette de Portici (The Mute Girl of Portici) is a five-act grand opera, first produced in Paris in 1828. Perhaps I’d be unkind if I described it as poor man’s Rossini but it’s an attractive creation. It suits Munch, from whom it gets a sparkling performance, full of dash and verve.

I don’t know how often Munch conducted Britten’s music but I’m not aware of any pieces by the English composer in his discography. Pristine have unearthed a review of the concert in question which appeared in the Boston Globe. The unnamed critic describes the Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge as “remarkably innocuous, full of clever detail, soothing inner voices and ingenious blends and contrasts of string sonorities. Harmonically the score is never more than bracing.” I’d agree that there’s lots of clever detail in the music but to describe these very skilful Variations are “remarkably innocuous” seems to me to be rather wide of the mark, as is the judgement on the harmonic writing. To be fair, though, the writer goes on to say that “The Variations never have been done too much hereabouts” so he was possibly unfamiliar with the piece.

Munch leads a good performance but it should be noted that he omits two of the Variations. Variation VI, ‘Weiner Waltzer’ is absent, as is Variation IX, ‘Chant’. There’s lots of tension in the ‘Introduction and Theme’ and in Variation I while Variation II, the ‘March’, is agile and thrusting. Munch’s way with the ‘Romance’ (Variation III) is elegant. The ‘Funeral March’ (Variation VIII) starts off with considerable power and intensity – so much for “remarkably innocuous” - and after the Fugue the slow Finale is intensely characterised. There is something of an edge to the BSO’s sound, especially the violins, but this, and the rather booming bass, is undoubtedly due to the fact that we’re listening to a recording that is more than sixty years old.

I wonder how often the Boston Symphony had played Nielsen’s Fifth Symphony prior to 1953. Munch makes a good job of the work, even though some of his speeds seem a little on the slow side to me. The first movement opens steadily but I like the way Munch builds the tension incrementally. The march over a bass ostinato (from around 5:00) has the right air of menace. When the big, broad tune is heard (from 11:12) the Bostonians play it nobly. The famous side drum part is played by Harold Karherman – we know his identity from a Boston Globe review reproduced by Pristine. He’s pretty impressive, even if he doesn’t quite match the unsurpassed frenzy of Alfred Dukes on Jascha Horenstein’s recording with the New Philharmonia (Unicorn-Kanchana). The only slight snag is that the rather piercing tone of the principal trumpet is not ideally suited to the great climax of Nielsen’s movement. Munch injects excellent energy into the start of the second movement and later on the quick fugue dances along in a sprightly fashion. The performance comes to a strong conclusion, amply justifying the applause. The performance is preserved in pretty good sound, especially when you consider that the recording is 66 years old.

A note on the Pristine website states that “These excellent broadcast recordings were drawn from the extensive tape archives of a major private collector and film director. The tapes were in generally excellent condition and sound quality throughout is fine, with just the occasional hint of overload.” Andrew Rose’s XR remastering and Ambient Stereo breathes new life into the recordings. Admirers of Charles Munch will be delighted to have the chance to hear him in this repertoire. The disc is a very interesting addition to the Munch discography.

John Quinn

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month

October 2022

Berg Violin Concerto
Violin Concerto Elmes

DEbussy Jeux
Debussy Jeux

Romantic pioano masters
Romantic Piano Masters

The future is female - Vol 2
Volume 2 - The Dance

impromptu harp music
Complete Harp Impromptus

September 2022
Nikolai Medtner
Herbert Blomstedt
Tarrodi Four Elements
Secret Love Letters
Lisa Batiashvili