vintage CSO videos

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Posted by Richard on December 19, 1999 at 18:02:51:

Video Arts International has issued Volumes 5 and 6 of its Chicago Symphony TV series, concerts from 1963 led by Charles Munch and Paul Hindemith. For sheer brass jockism the Hindemith is the "desert island" video of all time, leading off with Hindemith's own Concertmusic for Strings and Brass, a work never recorded commercially by the CSO, continuing with the first movement of Bruckner's 7th Symphony, and concluding with Brahms' Academic Festival Overture. It's a revelation to be able to see as well as hear Arnold Jacobs in his prime, in context with his colleagues, in Orchestra Hall, the location and the period of the legendary Reiner recordings. The sound is mono and not quite pristine, but the character of the playing and the voicing in the winds and brass come through loud and clear. The original engineers aced the miking and got a beautiful direct/hall mix that blows away any limitations the sound might otherwise have. And there is substantial heft to the bass. Bruckner was just being introduced to the repertoire in the early 60's and Hindemith was an early champion. Hindemith's commercial recordings of his own music tend to be rather pedestrian performances. But he and the CSO hit it off just right. The players came to work highly motivated in the first place, and he made the most of it. And you won't hear a grander more expansive Academic Festival Overture.

The Munch has it's share of brass, just not wall-to-wall, and the opening piece, Rameau's Suite from "Dardanus" arranged by d'Indy, is less than inspiring, but there's a rousing Berlioz Royal Hunt and Storm, with an incredible horn solos by Frank Brouk and Wayne Barrington. Jake can be seen and felt as he pays close attention to their playing. You can practically read his mind. You can bet they'd both been to the house. The real piece de resistance on the Munch is the Ravel set, segue performances of Valse Nobles et Sentimentales and La Valse. This is great playing and great conducting. Those who collect records and are Munch/BSO fans - here's a chance to check him out with an orchestra with which he never recorded commercially. Moreover, video provides an opportunity to view the give-and-take relationship between musicians and conductors, one a celebrated composer, the other a nearly god-like full-time conductor. They just don't make 'em like that anymore.

You can get complete information on these and other issues in the Chicago series at the VAI website

You can order direct or look for them at really serious music stores, such as the large chain that is known to employ at least two correspondents to this BBS.

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