Charles Munch

Biography

Born: September 26, 1891; Strasbourg, France   Died: November 6, 1968; Richmond, VA  
A genial conductor with a particular gift for French music, Charles Münch extended the Boston Symphony's glory years (begun under the baton of Serge Koussevitzky) into the early '60s. Münch was born in the province of Alsace-Lorraine, which at the time (1891) was controlled by Germany and has long hovered between two cultural worlds. Münch himself benefited from both French and German musical training, and his first important musical posts were Read more in Germany. Yet he came to be regarded as the quintessential French conductor, and his recordings of French repertory with the Boston Symphony remain standards by which others are judged. Münch studied violin at the Strasbourg Conservatory, where his father was a professor, and, from 1912, in Paris with Lucien Capet. As an Alsatian, he was conscripted into the German army at the outbreak of World War I. Gassed and wounded as an artillery sergeant, he nevertheless survived the war through sheer resiliency. In 1919, upon returning to Alsace-Lorraine (now back in French hands), he took French citizenship, and a violin professorship in Strasbourg. Nevertheless, his professional interests soon sent him to Germany; he studied violin with Carl Flesch in Berlin, then moved to Leipzig to take a violin professorship at the conservatory there, and then became concertmaster of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra from 1926 to 1933, during Furtwängler's tenure.

But it was back in Paris, in 1933, where Münch made his successful conducting debut in a self-financed concert with the Straram Orchestra. He conducted the Paris Orchestre de la Société Philharmonique (1935-1938) and in 1937 was named director of the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire de Paris, a post he held through World War II. Münch introduced many new works, including, in 1945, Messiaen's L'Ascension; he quickly became known as a conductor attentive to music's larger formal structures, as well as details of color and sonority. Despite his allegiances 25 years before, Münch refused to collaborate with the Nazis, and indeed supported the French resistance; he was awarded the Légion d'honneur in 1945.

Münch's career quickly accelerated after the war. In 1946, he made his debut with the Boston Symphony (and several other American orchestras) as a guest conductor, and he toured America with the French National Radio Orchestra in 1948. The following year, he was appointed music director of the Boston Symphony, which he took on an unprecedented tour of the Soviet Union in 1956. Münch retired from the BSO in 1962 but continued to guest conduct, and helped Serge Baudo launch the Orchestre de Paris in 1967. On tour in America with that orchestra, he died the following year.

Münch was easygoing in rehearsal, reluctant to drill the spontaneity out of an orchestra. He was particularly noted as an elegant, colorful interpreter of French music of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; his recordings of that material with the Boston Symphony for RCA are still regarded as classics of their kind. He was a strong advocate for the Franco-Swiss composers of his own generation, especially Roussel, Milhaud, and Honegger. But he also had a good touch with the conservative contemporary music of other lands, as may be heard in his few but important recordings of Martinu, Piston, and Barber. Indeed, during his Boston years Münch's commitment to American music was almost as strong as his allegiance to new French works. Read less
Browse 1-25 of 114 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Un siecle de musique francaise (A Century of French Music)
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 88875192862 Release Date: 05/13/2016   Number of Discs: 25
    Composer:  Pierre Boulez,  Claude Debussy,  Erik Satie,  Olivier Messiaen  ... 
    Performer:  Yvonne Minton,  Gervase de Peyer,  Michel Dalberto,  Daniel Varsano  ... 
    Conductor:  Pierre Boulez,  Charles Munch,  Seiji Ozawa,  Richard Marlow  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Musique Vivante,  New Philharmonia Orchestra,  Cleveland Orchestra  ... 
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  • 2.
    Yehudi Menuhin: The Complete American Victor Recordings
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 519854 Release Date: 05/06/2016   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Edouard Lalo,  Max Bruch,  Felix Mendelssohn,  Béla Bartók  ... 
    Performer:  Yehudi Menuhin,  Adolf Baller,  Wanda Landowska,  Carroll Hollister  ... 
    Conductor:  Pierre Monteux,  Charles Munch,  Antal Doráti,  George Enescu
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Symphony Orchestra,  Boston Symphony Orchestra,  RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    On sale! $34.98
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  • 3.
    The Menuhin Century: Luxury Edition
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 555050 Release Date: 04/22/2016   Number of Discs: 91
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny,  Arcangelo Corelli  ... 
    Performer:  Yehudi Menuhin,  Hubert Giesen,  Artur Balsam,  Marcel Gazelle  ... 
    Conductor:  Landon Ronald,  Pierre Monteux,  Jean Fournet,  Anatole Fistoulari  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Paris Symphonic Orchestra,  Colonne Concerts Orchestra  ... 
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  • 4.
    The Menuhin Century: The Historic Recordings
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 555052 Release Date: 04/22/2016   Number of Discs: 18
    Composer:  Sir Edward Elgar,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Antonín Dvorák,  Niccolň Paganini  ... 
    Performer:  Yehudi Menuhin,  Gerald Moore,  George Enescu,  David Oistrakh  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Edward Elgar,  George Enescu,  Pierre Monteux,  Sir John Barbirolli  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Paris Symphonic Orchestra,  Orchestre De La Société Des Concerts Du Conservatoire  ... 
    On sale! $54.98
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  • 5.
    William Primrose: A XXth Century Violist
    Label: Praga   Catalog: 250324 Release Date: 01/08/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Hector Berlioz,  Béla Bartók,  Sir William Walton
    Performer:  Jascha Heifetz,  William Primrose
    Conductor:  Izler Solomon,  Charles Munch,  Tibor Serlih,  Sir William Walton
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra,  Boston Symphony Orchestra,  New Symphony Orchestra of London  ... 
    CD: $22.99
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  • 6.
    Dutilleux: The Centenary Edition
    Label: Erato   Catalog: 553029 Release Date: 11/13/2015   Number of Discs: 7
    Composer:  Henri Dutilleux
    Performer:  Joel Esher,  Jordan Swaim,  Rachael Plotkin,  Mstislav Rostropovich  ... 
    Conductor:  Paavo Järvi,  Charles Munch,  Georges Prętre,  Mstislav Rostropovich  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sine Nomine String Quartet
    CD: $32.49
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  • 7.
    Charles Munch In Moscow
    Label: Melodiya   Catalog: 2279 Release Date: 02/10/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Arthur Honegger,  Jean-Philippe Rameau,  Albert Roussel
    Conductor:  Charles Munch
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  USSR State Academy Symphony Orchestra
    CD: $18.99
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  • 8.
    Berlioz: Romeo et Juliette / Munch, Boston Symphony
    Label: Rca Victor Red Seal   Catalog: 38433 Release Date: 01/14/2015   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Hector Berlioz
    Performer:  Margaret Roggero,  Leslie Chabey,  Yi-Kwei Sze
    Conductor:  Charles Munch
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Radcliffe Choral Society,  Harvard Glee Club,  Boston Symphony Orchestra
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  • 9.
    The Great Live Concerts
    Label: Urania Records   Catalog: 121270 Release Date: 11/11/2014   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms,  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Sviatoslav Richter
    Conductor:  Charles Munch
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  • 10.
    Phase 4 Stereo - Stereo Concert Series
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002188302 Release Date: 10/27/2014   Number of Discs: 41
    Composer:  John Philip Sousa,  Charles A. Zimmerman,  Francis S. Van Boskerck,  George Norton  ... 
    Performer:  Stanley Black,  David Parkhouse,  Alan Loveday,  Robert Merrill  ... 
    Conductor:  Rodney Bashford,  Stanley Black,  Bernard Herrmann,  Edward Downes  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Grenadier Guards Band,  London Festival Orchestra,  London Festival Recording Ensemble  ... 
    CD: $168.99
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  • 11.
    Label: Zyx Records   Catalog: 10183 Release Date: 09/12/2014   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Felix Mendelssohn,  Johannes Brahms,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
    Performer:  Jascha Heifetz
    Conductor:  Charles Munch,  Fritz Reiner
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  • 12.
    Rca Living Stereo Collection, Vol. 2
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 300350 Release Date: 05/13/2014   Number of Discs: 60
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Richard Strauss,  Sergei Rachmaninov,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky  ... 
    Performer:  Artur Rubinstein,  Byron Janis,  Gary Graffman,  Vladimir Horowitz  ... 
    Conductor:  Josef Krips,  Fritz Reiner,  Pierre Monteux,  Charles Munch  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Symphony of the Air,  Chicago Symphony Orchestra,  Boston Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    On sale! $125.98
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  • 13.
    RCA Living Stereo Collection, Vol. 1
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 541497 Release Date: 04/15/2014   Number of Discs: 60
    Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Claude Debussy,  Jacques Ibert,  Maurice Ravel  ... 
    Performer:  Berj Zamkochian,  John Weicher,  Philip Farkas,  Jascha Heifetz  ... 
    Conductor:  Charles Munch,  Fritz Reiner,  Kiril Kondrashin,  Arthur Fiedler  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra,  New England Conservatory Chorus,  New England Conservatory Alumni Chorus  ... 
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  • 14.
    Jascha Heifetz plays Great Violin Concertos
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 7761382 Release Date: 03/25/2014   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Johannes Brahms,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  Felix Mendelssohn  ... 
    Performer:  Jascha Heifetz,  Osian Ellis,  William Primrose,  Thornton Lofthouse  ... 
    Conductor:  Charles Munch,  Fritz Reiner,  Walter Hendl,  Sir Malcolm Sargent  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra,  Chicago Symphony Orchestra,  Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $22.99
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  • 15.
    Legendary Conductors of the BSO
    Label: Ica Classics   Catalog: 5115 Release Date: 10/29/2013   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Maurice Ravel,  Claude Debussy,  Franz Schubert,  Robert Schumann  ... 
    Conductor:  Charles Munch,  Erich Leinsdorf,  William Steinberg
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
    DVD: $64.49
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  • 16.
    Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4
    Label: United Classics   Catalog: 2013009 Release Date: 08/27/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Felix Mendelssohn
    Conductor:  Charles Munch
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  • 17.
    Byron Janis: The Complete RCA Album Collection
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 548440 Release Date: 04/16/2013   Number of Discs: 12
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Franz Schubert,  George Gershwin,  Ferde Grofé  ... 
    Performer:  Byron Janis
    Conductor:  Fritz Reiner,  Charles Munch
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra,  Boston Symphony Orchestra
    On sale! $64.98
    CD: $62.49
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  • 18.
    Prokofiev: Symphony No. 6; Violin Concerto No. 2
    Label: Regis   Catalog: 1396 Release Date: 01/29/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Sergei Prokofiev
    Performer:  Jascha Heifetz
    Conductor:  Yevgeny Mravinsky,  Charles Munch
    CD: $9.99
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  • 19.
    Jascha Heifetz plays Beethoven: Concerto, Sonatas, Trios
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 1915552 Release Date: 08/07/2012   Number of Discs: 7
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Franz Schubert
    Performer:  Jascha Heifetz,  Gregor Piatigorsky,  Jacob Lateiner,  Leonard Pennario  ... 
    Conductor:  Charles Munch,  William Steinberg
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra,  RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra
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  • 20.
    Charles Munch Conducts Romantic Masterworks
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 826732 Release Date: 06/12/2012   Number of Discs: 8
    Composer:  Franz Schubert,  Felix Mendelssohn,  Johannes Brahms,  Robert Schumann
    Performer:  Gary Graffman,  Artur Rubinstein,  Jascha Heifetz
    Conductor:  Charles Munch
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
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  • 21.
    Late Romantic Masterpieces / Charles Munch
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 899792 Release Date: 06/12/2012   Number of Discs: 7
    Composer:  Richard Wagner,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  Antonín Dvorák,  Gustav Mahler  ... 
    Performer:  Eileen Farrell,  Henryk Szeryng,  Gregor Piatigorsky,  Maureen Forrester
    Conductor:  Charles Munch
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
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  • 22.
    Label: Zyx Records   Catalog: 10132 Release Date: 05/25/2012   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Felix Mendelssohn
    Performer:  Yehudi Menuhin,  Jascha Heifetz,  Rudolf Serkin,  Rita Streich  ... 
    Conductor:  Yehudi Menuhin,  Sir Thomas Beecham,  Alfred Scholz,  Eugene Ormandy  ... 
    CD: $12.99
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  • 23.
    The Claude Debussy Collection
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 193179 Release Date: 05/01/2012   Number of Discs: 18
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Gervase de Peyer,  Ann Murray,  Nathalie Stutzmann,  Leslie Caron  ... 
    Conductor:  Charles Munch,  Pierre Boulez,  Michael Tilson Thomas,  Esa-Pekka Salonen
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra,  New Philharmonia Orchestra,  Cleveland Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $62.49
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  • 24.
    Handel: Water Music; Mozart: Symphonies 36 & 38 / Munch, BSO
    Label: Ica Classics   Catalog: 5057 Release Date: 02/28/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Conductor:  Charles Munch
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
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  • 25.
    Music & Painters - Music Of The Era Of Monet, Chagall, Courbet & Picasso
    Label: Naive   Catalog: 5283 Release Date: 01/31/2012   Number of Discs: 7
    Composer:  Maurice Ravel,  Claude Debussy,  Gabriel Fauré,  Ernest Chausson  ... 
    Performer:  Anne Gastinel,  Daniel Blumenthal,  Marie-Nicole Lemieux,  Noel Lee  ... 
    Conductor:  Dmitry Yablonsky,  Christoph Eschenbach,  Alain Lombard,  Bernard Haitink  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kasbek Ensemble,  Russian State Symphony Orchestra,  Orchestre de Paris  ... 
    CD: $39.99
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