Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony in rehearsal this week. First broadcast on June 16, 1951, Munch leads the orchestra through their first performance of Prokofiev’s Symphony Number 6.
The symphony, written as an elegy of the tragedies of World War II, has often been regarded as the darker twin to the victorious Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major. Prokofiev said of the symphony, “Now we are rejoicing in our great victory, but each of us has wounds that cannot be healed. One has lost those dear to him, another has lost his health. These must not be forgotten.”
The symphony was condemned in 1948 by the Soviet government under the second Zhdanov decree for not conforming to party lines, but it was favorably received among critics.
The Sixth Symphony was premiered on 11 October 1947. It was performed by the Leningrad Philharmonic, conducted by Yevgeny Mravinsky.
And in case you forgot:
A mesmerizing figure in concert, Charles Munch was celebrated for his electrifying public performances. He was a pioneer in many arenas of classical music–establishing Berlioz in the canon, perfecting the orchestral work of Debussy and Ravel, and leading the world to Roussel, Honegger, and Dutilleux. A pivotal figure, his accomplishments put him on a par with Arturo Toscanini and Leonard Bernstein.
Munch led the Boston Symphony on its first transcontinental tour of the United States in 1953. He became the first conductor to take them on tour overseas: Europe in 1952 and 1956, and East Asia and Australia in 1960. During the 1956 tour, the Boston Symphony was the first American orchestra to perform in the Soviet Union.
The Boston Symphony under Munch made a series of recordings for RCA Victor from 1949 to 1953 in monaural sound and from 1954 to 1962 in both monaural and stereophonic versions.
Selections from Boston Symphony rehearsals under Leonard Bernstein, Koussevitzky, and Munch were broadcast nationally on the NBC Radio Network from 1948-1951. NBC carried portions of the Orchestra’s performances from 1954-1957. Beginning in 1951, the BSO was broadcast over local radio stations in the Boston area. Starting in 1957, Boston Symphony performances under Munch and guest conductors were disseminated regionally, nationally, and internationally through the Boston Symphony Transcription Trust. Under Munch, the Boston Symphony appeared on television. The first BSO television broadcast was under Bernstein in 1949 at Carnegie Hall.
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