This venerable recording by the Italian Quartet from 1965 was, for many years, the standard reference copy of both works either individually or as a coupling. One of the considerable virtues of this group of players was that they could always be relied upon to play in tune and to play with musicianship. The competition was not so strong as it is today as many of the alternative groups simply could not deliver accuracy in tuning (or even worse, the notes). This was rarely commented upon in review magazines at the time, a source of complete bemusement for me, but as one who was expected to play in tune I found listening to string chamber music almost beyond bearing for much of the time - except for this group.
The great contribution of Robert Shaw to choral music has brought the listener to expect that nearly any recording or live performance under Shaw's direction will be thoroughly stunning, refreshing and performed with remarkable musical insight…
The Debussy and Ravel string quartets stand–along with some of Faure and Franck's chamber music–among the most elegant, refined pieces of music ever written: the perfect accompaniment for tea, madeleines and the emembrance of things past. It is hard to imagine anyone playing this music better than the Emerson String Quartet.
Radu Lupu recorded batches of Mozart and Schubert violin sonatas with the great violinist Szymon Goldberg (regrettably unavailable at present, but watch for them). This seems to be his only other recording of violin sonatas with someone else. Kyung Wha Chung is a powerful virtuoso who can play all the great showpieces, but she scales down her approach to express the muted beauty of the Debussy. Of course, she gives a powerful, extroverted reading to the Franck Sonata, which demands such an approach. Lupu collaborates all the way in both expressive worlds. The additional Debussy and Ravel, from a 1962 LP, are tasty bonuses.
The Quartetto Italiano is regarded as one of the finest string quartets of the twentieth century. The group generally focused on quartet-only repertory, avoiding performance with guest artists of quintets and other larger compositions.
Munch made his début with the Boston Symphony Orchestra on December 27, 1946. He was its Music Director from 1949 to 1962. Munch was also Director of the Berkshire Music Festival and Berkshire Music Center (Tanglewood) from 1951 through 1962. He led relaxed rehearsals which orchestra members appreciated after the authoritarian Serge Koussevitzky. Munch also received honorary degrees from Boston University, Harvard University, and Brandeis University.