Karl Münchinger - The Classical Legacy [8CD]

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Wiener Philharmoniker, Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, Karl Munchinger

A feast of Haydn and Mozart under the sure and stylish baton of Karl Munchinger, including several recordings making their first international appearance on CD. This box of Münchinger’s legacy in Classical-era repertoire picks up where the Eloquence set of his Baroque recordings (484 0160) left off, with six symphonies of Haydn.

He had founded the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra in 1946, and Decca began making records with them three years later. The excellence and commercial success of these albums caused the label to invite him to work with orchestras other than his own, in Paris (the Conservatoire Orchestra) and, more prestigiously still, the Vienna Philharmonic.

The first fruits of this new relationship were issued in May 1955: an LP of No.88 and No.101, the ‘Clock’. Reviewers looked to the likes of Furtwangler and Toscanini for comparison respectively, and did not find Munchinger wanting for either grandeur or pathos in this music. The sequels took in Nos 96 and 104 (recorded in May 1957) and Nos. 83 and 100 (from April 1961): superbly open and spacious Sofiensaal recordings engineered in classic Decca sound by John Culshaw and Christopher Raeburn. By then Munchinger was also recording Mozart for Decca, both with an enlarged cohort of his Stuttgart ensemble and with the Vienna Philharmonic. The repertoire included not only mature symphonies but also concertos (with the Viennese principals Werner Tripp and Alfred Prinz on flute and clarinet respectively), serenades (featuring the inimitably luscious tone of Willi Boskovsky’s violin) and rarities such as the ballet Les Petits Riens, recorded back in Stuttgart.

The set concludes with two discs of concertos: Haydn and Boccherini with the cellist Pierre Fournier, Mozart with both Christian Ferras - including the apocryphal ‘Adelaide’ concerto once championed by Menuhin - and Wilhelm Kempff, in a pairing of the Piano Concertos Nos. 9 and 15 that had critics reaching for superlatives in an era when these works had barely entered the record catalogues.

‘I call attention to Kempff’s exquisite artistry in the variations of the Andante [of Piano Concerto No.15]... One also notes here the extraordinary independent life which the bass line has in Kempff’s performance; left and right hand seem to be two different instruments.’ - Gramophone, September 1954

‘Finally an edition appears which expresses entirely what we have been imagining inwardly what the music must truly be... Lovers of Concertos 9 and 15 are warned that a hearing of [the Kempff/Munchinger recording] will infallibly involve the purse.’ - High Fidelity, December 1954

‘[Mozart’s Symphony] No.33 enjoys reproduction of exceptional appeal... We are treated to a refreshing balm without damage to unity and decision in a positive and graceful performance. This is easily the best recording.’ - High Fidelity, June 1956

‘His performances of [Nos. 96 and 104] are first-rate and stunningly recorded. Who said that Haydn doesn’t blossom in stereo?’ - High Fidelity, October 1959

‘A wholly delightful performance of a delectable Haydn work [Symphony No.83]. It’s not to be missed.’ - High Fidelity, October 1962 (Haydn, Symphony No.83)

‘This is without doubt the recommended coupling of the two concertos... The whole [Clarinet Concerto] from Prinz, Munchinger and the mellow Vienna orchestra has a wonderful feeling of maturity. No one tries any effects, nor takes other than leisurely speeds, for they know that this is superb music and only needs to be played with such artistry never to fall into dullness.’ - Gramophone, January 1964 (Mozart, Concertos for Clarinet and for Flute & Harp)