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Berlioz - Symphonie fantastique; Romo et Juliette - exc

Charles Munch Audio CD

Price: £7.41 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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1. Symphonie Fantastique, Op. 14: Reveries: Passions
2. Symphonie Fantastique, Op. 14: A Ball
3. Symphonie Fantastique, Op. 14: Scene In The Country
4. Symphonie Fantastique, Op. 14: March To The Scaffold
5. Symphonie Fantastique, Op. 14: Witches' Sabbath
6. Romeo et Juliette, Op. 19: Love Scene

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A note on the recording 22 April 2003
By R. Grames - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This is, to my mind, one of the truly great Berlioz interpretations. This is not really disputed by earlier reviews, but there have been comments on the sound. It is worth noting that the recordings made by RCA from '54 to '56 were really experiments with no clear intent to market the results. As John Pfieffer, the producer, noted in any number of interviews, the stereo recordings were made while commercial monaural sessions were going on. In some cases, they did not even continuously monitor the stereo as it was being laid down on tape. The biggest problem, since they were using a two- or three-mic setup, was finding the ideal position to produce a good balance between direct and reverberant sound. Boston Symphony Hall is much more reverberant than Chicago Symphony Hall and caused more problems of the type noted by some listeners, but also ended up producing some of the most spectacular results once the sweet-spot was found. The Munch: Saint-Saens 3rd Symphony is a good example.
Many of these recordings were not even released in stereo at first, having to wait until this CD series was created in the mid-90's. I think this one was, though, first on stereo reel-to-reel tape and then on LP. I do recommend that anyone interested in this great performance snap up the CD while it is still available. As many know, BMG has a much lower commitment to the classics than they used to and are axing many titles as they sell out. And the great John Pfieffer and Richard Mohr are no longer around to protest.
Happy listening.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Music-making of the old (French) school 11 Dec 2002
By Paul Bubny - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Charles Munch managed the contradictory feat of performances that tingled with excitement without being crass, and managed clarity without being clinical about it. A very old-school conductor in that regard. This nearly half-century-old "Symphonie fantastique" is a case in point. I can't think of anyone else in my experience who has so neatly brought out the hints of delirium inherent in Berlioz's score--while maintaining Gallic unflappability. At times the whole thing threatens to come unglued, and that sense of living dangerously is probably what Berlioz intended (the neatly-organized performances of Sir Colin Davis, which for some are the standard in this symphony, are anything but "on the edge"). In this he is aided by the very French-sounding Boston Symphony, of which he was then music director, and while their technical smoothness probably didn't reach its peak under Munch's direction, you get the sense that they would go anywhere the sometimes unpredictable maestro asked. RCA's engineers were a little less helpful, producing dry, close-up (if immediate) early stereo that sounds more dated than the historic Strauss recordings they'd made with Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony earlier that year (1954). The sound improves greatly in the apt (and deliciously done) coupling from seven years later: the "Scene d'amour" from "Romeo et Juliette." It was at a performance of Shakespeare's play that Berlioz not only resolved to set the Bard's tale of "star cross'd lovers" to music one day, but also first laid eyes on the actress who became the indirect inspiration for "Symphonie fantastique" (and later, Mrs. Berlioz).
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the great performances of this work 23 Oct 1998
By bhyman@gate.net - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Charles Munch was conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from the late 50's through the early 60's. He was most famous for her interpretations of French music, especially Berlioz. His performances are rich in color, expression, power and excitement. While there are many fine, newer recordings, there is probably no finer performance on disc of this work. And the sound, though vintage early '60's, used advanced recording techniques and is excellent.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you find Munch associated with Berlioz you have a winner 1 Feb 2001
By Ytzan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Munch seems to be the ultimate Berlioz interepreter. I have heared 3 of his Symphonie's ( the one performed in Portugal from a live performance) and all of them are excellent. A real master.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Golden Age of stereo began here 19 Jun 2006
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
In 1954 Fritz Reiner recorded Also Sprach Zarathustra and Charles Munch the Symphonie fantastique, and in their Living Stereo reissues one could mistkae them for contemporary recordings, so clear, detailed, and dynamic are they. In terms of atmosphere and spaciousness, they surpass many current recordings. For far too long RCA abused them with edgy early digitual reissues, but now they've been given a new lease on life, and the lease keeps being extended--now BMG has issued a hybrid SACD of this classic.

What makes me even more grateful is that in 1954 making stereo tapes was an act of faith on the part of the engineers, who set up separate mikes for the mono version; there was no playback equipment yet devised for the home market that could play stereo LPs, and wouldn't be for several more years.

Of course it's the performance that counts most here, and Munch is light, spontaneous, and always careful to keep the music fresh. The fact that he doesn't turn the Symphonie fantastique into a sonic blockbuster is what makes the sound so delightful--we are never bludgeoned. I'm baffled by the description of Munch's approach as go-for-broke. The March to the Scaffold is, if anything, a bit understated, and the Witches' Sabbath, though spectral, doesn't strain for ghoulishly lurid effects.

In sum, I was as delighted with Munch's restraint as I was with the sound. A classic in the Berlioz discography.
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