, July 2011
The first disc pairs performances of the first two symphonies of Johannes Brahms, filmed in 1960. Charles Munch conducts from memory, his baton style dominated by the long stick in his right hand. The camera work is also good, panning between musicians as they play particularly sensitive passages and not just focusing on the conductor.
These are strong Brahms performances, conducted with lyricism and rhythmic snap. The First has a good clarity of orchestral texture, with the lower instruments (playing the harmony parts) clearly audible. When the big noble theme soars out in the fourth movement, it is played with reverence and nobility, as the orchestra surges out in the triumphant final bars.
The more lyrical Second is elegantly played, with the slow movement one of the highlights. Mr. Munch explores the depths of these rich, thick harmonies, drawing a smooth, harmonious sound from the Boston players that would be envy of some better-known virtuosos. The third movement has lift and energy in its trio section, and the playing from the woodwinds is absolutely cracking.