Munch is wofully under-represented in my own musical collection. After some thought and hesitation I've awarded the disc 5 stars, but it's not likely to suit all tastes, at least not in the Ravel. Music-lovers old enough to remember Munch will have a fair idea what to expect from him. His readings were typically notable for great strength of line, discipline and cohesiveness. No performance by Munch ever sagged, meandered or lost its grip on the overall structure of the work being performed. Under the circumstances one might have expected him to be ideally cast in the Bolero, and a very fine account it is. The basic pulse is not too fast, and predictably it has the right kind of swagger to the rhythm. In the last few repetitions Munch increases the tempo just a tad, which I find exactly right.
However, it's still possible to want a little more charm and seductiveness even in this piece. Charm and seductiveness were not the attributes most associated with Munch, and I'm not sure whether the slight lack I feel here is down to the conductor or to the recording. The sound (from the late 60's) is very clear and faithful and it copes with the full orchestral tutti without any sense of strain, but in Ravel's Bolero the sound-quality needs to be nothing less than spectacular, and in Munch's day recording techniques were only beginning to achieve that. It's much the same story with the Rapsodie espagnole and, to a lesser extent, with the Daphnis and Chloe suite. I quite appreciate that this is Ravel and not Debussy. Ravel does not call for half-tones and impressionistic sound in the way Debussy does, but there needs to be a certain `aura' about him all the same. It would have taken a genius of entirely the wrong kind to make the start of `Lever du jour' anything but breathtaking, and I need hardly say that Munch does the effect justice. However I compared the way Toscanini goes about it on my cherished old LP (not at all badly recorded), and there is simply more magic to it from him. Toscanini's musical temperament was not dissimilar to Munch's in many ways, and nebulous impressionism was not what he was most famous for either, but there's a difference nonetheless, hard to pinpoint but very perceptible.
Munch's great strengths remain. For power, forward impetus, rhythmic strength, clarity of texture and incisiveness he was hard to beat. There is also Honegger's second symphony here (for strings and trumpet), and in Honegger Munch is the genuine article in every possible respect. He was associated with this symphony from its earliest days, its characteristics are made for him and they bring out the best in him. The Orchestre de Paris was probably not quite the world's greatest orchestra but it does not fall down on the job in any way, and rises to considerable heights quite frequently. All in all, I would have felt grudging and ungracious not to have given this fascinating monument to the work of a great conductor and musician, now beginning to be forgotten, a qualified top score. My reasons why I've tried to make clear, and they could be your reasons why not. I am thrilled to own this disc, and I don't expect to be alone in that.