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  Living Stereo
  Schubert: Symphonies Nos. 7 & 8 - Munch
  Schubert: Symphony No. 7 (8) in B minor "Unfinished", Symphony No. 8 (9) in C major "The Great"

Boston Symphony Orchestra
Charles Munch (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Reviews: 2

Review by Jonalogic August 17, 2010 (11 of 15 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Why has no-one reviewed this well-known coupling on Living Stereo, I wonder?

Anyway, my review started when I auditioned the modern, Schubert-lite perfomances of Dausgaard on BIS. Unlike some other reviewers, I was unmoved by these readings of Schubert 8 and 9 - unstirred, unshaken, in fact. What was wrong? So I bought this 1955/1958 Living Stereo recording, and found out fairly rapidly.

It looks iffy on paper. Munch doing Austrian classics? And this is not regarded as a top-table Living Stereo.

Fear ye not, it still comfortably surpassed the 50-year newer recording in all aspects, without breaking sweat.

Musically, the 80+ Boston Symphony sounds clearer, lither and altogether more agile than the 40-piece Swedish Chamber Orchestra. This is not a fair comparison, of course. However, just listen to the opening of the final movement of the C-major played by Boston/Munch and then SCO/Dausgaard; in the former, the fiendishly difficult strings and ensemble just leap off the page. By comparison, the modern recording is staid and - frankly - a bit boring.

OK, The Living Stereo recording observes no repeats. Not fashionable then. And some of the legato brass playing in the C major sounds unwise. However, neither of these facts is going to keep me up at nights...

Sonically, there is no comparison either. Although the BSO/Munch can sound a bit congested and flustered at peaks, this recording just kicks down the stage in all directions. By comparison, the modern recordings - not one of BIS's best efforts, I feel - seems relatively flat, congealed and unfocussed. The inner lines and voices which are so clearly delineated musically and separated spatially in the minimalist 1950's analog recording just smear together in the 2009 all-digital effort.

Yes, I know, this sounds crazy. But I only report what I hear. Whether these affects are as blatantly apparent on less high-end gear is a matter of conjecture. What do YOU hear?

The only conceivable rationale for the reduced forces used in the Dausgaard recording is if this increases inner transparency of musical line and more clearly delinates some of Schubert's relatively thick orchestration. Well, it just doesn't. Listen to any excerpt of either symphony, and you will hear far more of what's going on musically in the Munch. It's not even close.

So, the Munch is the one to go for. It's also half the price.

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Review by bassoon June 1, 2011 (5 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Well, it seems I am the only one, who is (musically) disappointed with this SACD. Anyway, I am certainly a huge fan of the Living Stereo SACD's, and I am always (as an orchestra musician too) interested in old recordings an interpretations. But in this case there are two other recordings (Schubert "Unfinished"), both very different, but musically both first class and inspired, and so this Munch Recording has no chance for me.

The first is the Kleiber Esoteric SACD Schubert: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 7 - Kleiber
And my second favorite is the Mravinsky live recording Yevgeny Mravinsky in Moscow (with a marvelous, unique 4.Tchaikovsky !).

Both recordings have from the first bar on an inspired tension, different but right fitting tempi (the Munch first movement is no Allegro) and the necessary dynamic (fascinating sounding ppp, well contrasted sfz / ff).
If you put this Munch Schubert SACD into the player after listening to Kleiber or Mravinsky, sorry, it is really uninspired and boring.

Soundwise (stereo) it is for me ordinary Living Stereo quality, not bad but nothing special.

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Works: 2  

Franz Schubert - Symphony No. 7 (8) in B minor, D. 759 "Unfinished"
Franz Schubert - Symphony No. 8 (9) in C major, D. 944 "Great"