3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This disc is a compilation of recordings made in 1956, (Debussy and Ibert), and 1959 (Saint Saens). The Saint Saens was a speciality of Munch and over the years I have owned three versions by him, all notably exciting. There was a Fontana label 10 inch LP with the NYPO and a Columbia recording before this one, recorded in stereo, with the Boston orchestra.
Over the years I have owned a number of alternative recordings in the belief or hope that a newer recording would have better sound and an exciting performance to match. This has proved not to be the case and Munch still reigns supreme. The question now remains, which compilation is best?
There was a Red Seal issue which definitely does not have the openness of sound of the Living Stereo version. However its couplings of the Poulenc organ concerto and Franck's Chasseur Maudit are invaluable for being the most exciting ever of the Franck and a particularly good Poulenc. The disc therefore stays in the collection.
There is also the SACD version of the Living Stereo disc being discussed in this review. This offers stupendous sound when heard in its SACD form via good quality playback equipment. The stereo Living Stereo sound, good though it is, is simply outclassed by the SACD version. The same difference applies to the two fillers although it must be stated that the star item sonically is the symphony which was recorded in 1959 and three years later than the other two items which were recorded in 1956.
The Ibert Escales, a rarity on disc, is generally well played with drive and commitment but suffers from relatively close miking and a lack of ambiance and a rather dry acoustic. This is an original balancing decision and the recording lacks the opulence and depth of stage of the Saint Saens although the SACD version played through surround equipment opens out considerable more than the Living stereo version.
The Debussy has the important and totally effective extra brass triplets heard clearly at the end of the last movement. These add greatly to the excitement and are rarely included - the Reiner version also has them, and it is a mystery to me why no-one else has remarked about this important point on either disc. The differences of soundstage relating the the rest of the program apply equally to this piece which lies between the other two in sonic effectiveness.
Generally one would not choose a Munch recording expecting sensitive subtleties of interpretation. Munch is more about the broader canvas, excitement, drive and thrills. He had an orchestra that could deliver these and that is what we get on this disc.
There are no other choices on disc to be made as regards recordings of the Ibert Escales but there are several more subtle and effective versions of the Debussy to be had, even from the same era - Reiner springs to mind for example. However, Munch is simply in a class of his own when it comes to the Saint Saens and the SACD version is the one to have of that.
I would suggest that the disc's longevity in the catalogues is testament to its considerable appeal and would therefore advise that it should be seriously as a strong purchase option, especially for the Saint Saens.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This disc represents very good value to just about every category of prospective customer. If you don't know the music or don't have recordings of it then the relatively low price is married to very attractive and musical interpretations of all three works and a rich and detailed recording quality. If you are interested in "historical" performances then this has to be one of the very best recorded and performed Saint-Saens Organ Symphonies from the early period of stereo. Even in two-channel playback on the stereo level of the disc this is pretty impressive sound. Those who admire Charles Munch or the Boston Symphony Orchestra will find the disc self-recommending.
The Saint-Saens has long been thought of as a benchmark performance by critics, especially those in the USA, and this seems completely fair as it is exciting, alert and airy. The Debussy and Ibert pieces are also very fine.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 12 October 2012
I own this, but did not buy this through Amazon.
I'm very pleased with the perofrmance of the Organ Symphony on this disc. I didn't listen to the other works yet.
What I want to say is that there is a batch of faulty discs circulating. On these, the right and center channel are switched on the multichannel layer. There is a reference about this error on [...] (reviews) and unhappily, my disc is one of that batch.
Star rating is for the peroformances.
Edit: Tried a second copy ordered from amazon ... same issue. Happily there is return service.
4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 19 April 2009
This interpretation of Saint-Saens III symphony enjoys a reference status according to many critics. So I decided to check it out, although I am not a fan of Charles Munch. My overall impression is positive: the BSO orchestra plays very well, the dynamics are wide enough. I enjoyed the details and expression of the soli and the "singing" of the piano and pianissimo parts. However, this is not my favorite execution. For my taste the high volume/voltage moments are not too nitid, both in terms of tempi and expression, so many climaxes result somewhat blurred, which spoils the expectations built (well) from the softer parts. My recommendations among "old" recordings would go to that conducted by Paul Paray, if not to the Toscanini interpretation (here the quality of the recording probably demands too much from the listener...). Similar considerations apply also to the other pieces in the SACD.