The Boston Symphony Orchestra, which spends summers in the Berkshires at Tanglewood, will release 32 DVDs over the next four seasons in a collaboration with Boston public broadcaster WGBH and International Classical Artists and their new audio and audiovisual label, ICA Classics. These Boston Symphony Orchestra performances were recorded at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre between 1958 And 1961 and first broadcast on WGBH TV.
The first set of these new BSO archival DVD releases will feature Boston Symphony Orchestra performances that took place at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre between February 4, 1958 and October 31, 1961, under the direction of Charles Munch (BSO Music Director 1949-1962). These DVDs—featuring music of Debussy, Ravel, Wagner, Fauré, Franck, and Beethoven—represent some of the earliest televised concerts with the Boston Symphony Orchestra (the BSO was first featured on television in 1949 in an NBC radio and television special). View clip: Charles Munch, BSO, in Debussy’s La Mer, October 28, 1958.
Originally broadcast on WGBH television and distributed through the Educational Radio and Television Center (precursor to WNET) to educational television stations nationwide, these BSO/Charles Munch performances are being made available on DVD for the first time commercially through this new partnership between the BSO, WGBH, and ICA Classics.
The first three DVDs will be available starting February 22, 2011 through Naxos of America and can be purchased from Amazon.com and retail stores across the United States, as well as the BSO’s website, www.bso.org. The Boston Symphony will also offer buyers the chance to pre-order the DVDs starting December 1, through www.bso.org or by calling 888-266-1200; these pre-orders will be fulfilled soon after February 22. The DVDs will also be available to purchase in the UK through the ICA Classics website, www.icaclassics.com, beginning January 31, 2011, as well as in retail stores throughout Europe.
The first BSO DVD in the ICA Classics series will feature the Boston Symphony and Charles Munch in Ravel’s Ma mère l’oye (February 4, 1958) and Debussy’s Ibéria (October 31, 1961) and La Mer (October 28, 1958). The second BSO/Munch DVD will feature orchestral excerpts from Wagner’s Die Meistersinger (March 8, 1960), Franck’s Symphony in D minor (March 14, 1961), and Fauré’s suite from Pelléas et Mélisande (April 7, 1959). The third disc will feature the BSO and Charles Munch in an all-Beethoven DVD featuring excerpts from Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus (March 8, 1960) and Symphony No. 4 (April 18, 1961) and Symphony No. 5 (November 3, 1959).
This material represents some of the earliest televised concerts with the Boston Symphony and Charles Munch and is of exceptional musical interest and historic value. The performances have been expertly restored using state-of-the-art techniques. MSM, the German based studios used by ICA Classics for the restoration, authoring and encoding work on the BSO DVDs, has carried out extensive repair work, including the de-noising of video and audio feeds, repairing scratches and drop-outs in the audio feed, normalizing the audio and repairing a variety of video errors including jerking, ‘fuzzing’, replacing missing frames, minimizing image shifts and flickering.
Future BSO/ICA Classics releases plan to spotlight many of the series’ most popular programs. The archive includes performances led by Erich Leinsdorf (BSO Music Director 1962-1969), Sir Colin Davis (BSO Principal Guest Conductor 1972-1984), Michael Tilson Thomas (BSO Assistant Conductor, BSO Associate Conductor, BSO Principal Guest Conductor 1969-1974), and Seiji Ozawa (BSO Music Director 1973-2002), among others. Future releases will feature select BSO performances from the popular PBS series, “Evening at Symphony,” which ran from 1974 to 1979. Further details about future releases will be announced at a later date.
BSO HISTORIC TELEVISION BROADCASTS
Television broadcasting of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from Symphony Hall began in 1949 with an NBC radio and television special and continued on a more regular basis in 1955, when a BSO concert from Kresge Auditorium at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was telecast over WGBH Channel 2 in Boston. During the 1957-58 season, six BSO concerts from Harvard’s Sanders Theatre were broadcast on WGBH-TV, five of which were kinescoped and made available to educational television stations throughout the country by WNET-TV, the Educational Radio and Television Center. In 1963, television broadcasts resumed from Symphony Hall, considered among the top three concert halls in the world. In 1974, “Evening at Symphony,” WGBH’s popular PBS series, was broadcast from Symphony Hall to a national audience.
From 1957 through 1979, more than 175 Boston Symphony Orchestra concerts were produced in conjunction with WGBH-TV for distribution to public television stations. Originally recorded on two-inch videotape and 16mm kinescopes, a collection of more than 100 of these programs now resides jointly in the Boston Symphony Orchestra archives and at WGBH, and are considered to be among the most comprehensive collections of archived symphony film and video in the country.
Until now, with few exceptions, these programs have remained virtually inaccessible to researchers and enthusiasts because of the fragile condition and deterioration of the original materials. This new partnership between the BSO, WGBH, and ICA Classics will ensure the preservation of many of these BSO historic videos, though additional funding is still needed preserve the complete collection. All the BSO audio/video materials preserved through the partnership with ICA Classics will be made available to historians and scholars through the BSO archive department, which is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.