A genial conductor with a particular gift for French music, Charles Munch extended the Boston Symphony's glory years (begun under the baton of Serge Koussevitzky) into the early 1960s. Munch was so venerated that conservative Bostonians even declined to fuss over rumors that he was having an affair with his niece, pianist Nicole Henriot-Schweitzer; they wrote it off as part of his romantic French nature. Paradoxically, Munch was not precisely French. He was born in Alsace-Lorraine, which at the time (1891) was controlled by Germany and has long hovered between two cultural worlds. Munch himself benefitted from both French and German musical training, and his first important musical posts were in Germany…
"The virtuosity and unanimity of the VPO strings command the highest respect. The grave opening fugue, the brilliant scherzo and the impassioned finale sound terrific … a fabulous disc." - Gramophone
“this DVD brings compelling accounts of the master at work, visually as well as aurally. There is a powerful intensity to the Beethoven overtures and the opening of William Tell is beautifully done, with glorious playing from the Berliners…There is plenty of fascinating archival material to see; and within the maestro's obviously glamorous, jet-set lifestyle, he emerges as a musical communicator of warmth - and humour too. A most revealing issue.” (The Penguin Guide)
Mysliveček, il divino Boemo (the title seems to have been a fictional exaggeration) was particularly associated with opera. But his instrumental works outnumber the operatic by some margin and some of his best-known works, to us at least, are his concertos. The years of his greatest triumphs were between about 1767 and 1777, a decade that saw foreign successes, meetings with Mozart and considerable operatic esteem. His Six Symphonies of 1772 are indebted to the Italianate three-movement form, which they have absorbed with considerable vivacity, and they show individual touches – modulations, wind solos and the like – that give them an individual stamp.
ECM New Series is better known for its documentation of contemporary works, but the music of the past sometimes receives coverage when artists bring a new perspective to it. The Diabelli Variations, Op. 120; the Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111; and the Six Bagatelles, Op. 126, are among the most original and intellectually stimulating works Ludwig van Beethoven composed for the piano, and the sophisticated interpretations of András Schiff are especially worthwhile for their insights into authentic performance practice and reception. Here, Schiff gives the listener options between a relatively modern sounding version of the Diabelli Variations and a period interpretation, without favoring one or the other. On the first CD he plays the Sonata and the Diabelli Variations on a Bechstein piano from 1921, though with minimal pedaling and a restrained execution that allows every inner voice and subtle dynamic to be appreciated. While this piano is not as hard or bright sounding as a modern Steinway, it is familiar to modern ears and most listeners will readily accept it. On the second CD, Schiff plays the Diabelli Variations, along with the Six Bagatelles, on a smaller sounding Franz Brodmann fortepiano, an original instrument from around 1820, Beethoven's time period.