Michael B. Richman | Portland, Maine USA | 04/01/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The corporate merger of Sony and BMG has yielded a new midline series called "Classic Library." Drawing from the vast vaults of Columbia, RCA, etc., the "Classic Library" series will hopefully replace some of the void left by the shameful deletion of Sony's budget-line "Essential Classics" series. Well they are certainly off to a good start by making Charles Munch's legendary recording of Franck's Symphony in D Minor available (I believe this is its first time on CD). Though I had never actually heard this 1957 stereo performance prior to purchasing this disc, I knew the critical acclaim surrounding it. Indeed Munch delivers a fantastic Franck, full of spontaneity and insight, light and nimble, and never plodding or dull -- an unfortunate trait of far too many renditions. But this is what one comes to expect from Munch in the French repertoire, whether with Debussy, Saint-Saens, Ravel, Berlioz or Franck. Keeping the music in Boston, but this time with famous Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler and pianist Leonard Pennario, next we encounter a glowing 1963 account of "Symphonic Variations" (I believe also making its CD debut). These two men were generally associated with lighter, more mainstream fare (though I have always admired Pennario's Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky concerto recordings), but they turn in a memorable performance here. This title concludes with a CD reissue of the 1962 recording of "Le Chasseur Maudit," again by Munch and the Boston Symphony. In all, if Sony/BMG continues to unearth the neglected gems in their collective discographies, then this will truly be a "Classic Library" worth checking out."