Münch / NPO – Bizet: Carmen & L’Arlésienne Suites (180g pressing)

# Composer: Georges Bizet
# Orchestra: New Philharmonia Orchestra
# Conductor: Charles Münch
# Vinyl (1967 / 2014)
# Number of Discs: 1
# Format: Flac
# DR Analysis: DR 13
# Label: Phase 4 / Decca | PFS 4128
# Size: 24-bit/192kHz (1.90GB), 24-bit/96kHz (0.98GB) and 16-bit/44.1kHz (305MB)
# Recovery: 5%
# Scan: yes
# Servers: File Factory

From the label:

In the 1960s Decca pioneered the use of a multi 10-channel console mixer which created recordings with an unprecedented sense of spatial realism and movement – Phase 4 Stereo. Following in the footsteps of Decca’s highly-successful label heritage sets (The Decca Sound, Mercury Living Presence), this generous selection of the very best of Phase 4 promises to amaze a new generation of fans.


The recorded legacy of Charles Munch, music director of the Boston Symphony from 1949 to1962, is celebrated in a number of big boxes from RCA. Here he teams up with the New Philharmonia in a programme of what he does best – French music. This recording – made in Kingsway Hall – includes excerpts from Guiraud’s two Carmen Suites, although I see from a Decca Weekend CD that Munch actually recorded them both; ditto the L’Arlésienne Suites, only the first of which is presented here.

The Carmen selection begins with a heady account of Les Toréadors, which contains some of the opera’s most famous tunes. Guiraud’s orchestrations are well served here; the Aragonaise is wonderfully mobile and the dreamy Intermezzo is a delight. The exaggerated left/right balances are very noticeable, especially in the opening bars of the Habanera and La Garde Montante, and tuttis are apt to leap out of the mix more forcefully than they would in the concert hall. There’s some lingering reverb at the end of the Habanera, but it’s difficult to tell whether it’s natural or added.

These are fine performances, right up there with Ansermet and the OSR, and the recording offers a good blend of weight and clarity. The Danse Bohème has terrific point and polish – Munch really does this rep so well – and there’s a zest to the music-making that’s most welcome. The first L’Arlésienne Suite is no less recommendable; indeed, the Prélude and Minuetto are so strongly characterized compared with the beautifully wrought but fastidious Yamada/OSR recording. Munch’s Adagietto has pleasing shape and line, despite what sounds like a deliberate boost in louder passages.

Alas, that extra lift makes for quite a forceful – even fierce – Carillon. This sudden coarsening of the sound – tuttis are inclined to shriek – comes as a surprise after what started out as a fairly civilized recording. The Farandole is also a tad aggressive – the upper strings especially so – but those attention-getting pitter-pats are very well done. Whatever reservations I might have about the sound they don’t detract from these thrilling, very idiomatic performances.

Merveilleuse; Munch at his considerable best. – Dan Morgan, musicweb-international.com

Track Listing:

Side One
Carmen Suite (excerpts from suites nos. 1 & 2)
01 – Les toréadors
02 – Aragonaise
01 – Intermezzo
02 – Les dragons d’Alcala
01 – Habanera
02 – La garde montante
01 – Danse bohème

Side Two
L’Arlésienne Suite No.1
03 – Prélude
04 – Minuetto
03 – Adagietto
04 – Carillon
03 – Farandole

Recording Location: Kingsway Hall, London, January 1967
Recording Producer: Tony D’Amato
Balance Engineer: Arthur Lilley
First released in November 1967

Mastered at Abbey Road Studios
Pressed at Record Industries
Limited, numbered six LP set with a detailed booklet – only 2,100 sets

Additional info can be found here.

Ripping Info:

All vinyl is cleaned on a VPI 16.5

Technics SL1200-MK5 (modified)
– Rega RB300 arm with RB700 wiring
– Michell Tecnoweight
– SoundSupports armboard
– Trans-Fi Audio ResoMat
Audio Technica AT33PTG/II
AVID Pellar preamp
RME Hammerfall 9632 ADC

Processing: Sound Forge 10, ClickRepair (manual mode only), iZotope RX3

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