Charles Munch

Debussy: Ibéria; Ravel: Le tombeau de Couperin; Roussel: Bacchus et Ariane Suite No. 2

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Many listeners will have knowledge of Charles Münch's masterful recordings with the Boston Symphony Orchestra on RCA Red Seal, but fewer are likely to have encountered his performances with other orchestras, which are mainly reissued on small labels and regarded as specialist items. This 2007 release on the Swiss Guild label presents Münch's guest appearance on March 28, 1954, with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, conducting three French masterpieces; while this disc has the drab appearance of a historical collector's release, presumably with the flaws that term implies, it is surprisingly listenable for a monaural concert recording of its time. This performance was taped by WNBC in Carnegie Hall, and aside from the unavoidable compression of the sound for radio broadcast and a certain bass-heaviness, the BSO sounds remarkably clear, if not exactly sparkling, in these renditions of Claude Debussy's Ibéria, Maurice Ravel's Le tombeau de Couperin, and the second suite from Albert Roussel's Bacchus et Ariane. Obviously, this is not the best choice for hearing these pieces for the first time, but because the sound is fairly clean and details in the orchestration are remarkably clear, it is easy to appreciate the music with only minimal distractions from the limitations of the audio or noises from the audience.

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