Charles Munch

Berlioz: Harold in Italy; Overtures

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In the 1950s, Charles Münch was closely associated with the orchestral music of Hector Berlioz, and his masterful recordings with the Boston Symphony Orchestra of the composer's best known works are widely considered as classics. The 1958 traversal of the intensely dramatic Harold in Italy, featuring violist William Primrose as soloist, is one of the extraordinary performances RCA recorded in its nascent three-track technology; though it has been familiar for many years in its Living Stereo mix, it sounds even bolder, richer, and deeper in the multichannel format. The combination of left, middle, and right channels creates a clear spatial relation between the orchestra and Primrose, and the viola's placement in the foreground gives it greater presence, particularly in the denser passages where the instrument's veiled tone requires a judicious instrumental balance. The four overtures, Béatrice et Bénédict, Le Corsaire, Bevenuto Cellini, and Roman Carnival, were also recorded in three-track between 1958 and 1959 and are sonic spectaculars that demonstrate how advanced RCA's systems were for their time. The flawless DSD remastering for this hybrid SACD brings these exceptional performances fully into the digital age, and the promise of RCA's early experiments in orthophonic reproduction has finally been met.

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