The Music Plays On

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Charles Munch

The Alsatian conductor, Charles Munch, was born Charles Münch in Strasbourg in 1891, which then part of the German Empire. He was from a family of musicians. His father, Ernst Münch, was an organist and choir conductor. His uncle, Eugen Münch, and brother, Fritz, were also conductors and his cousin, Hans Münch, was a composer. Charles was an excellent violinist and served as concertmaster of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra from 1926 to 1933.

Munch made an incredibly successful conducting debut at the age of 41 in 1932 in Paris, and for the remainder of the decade conducted all of the major orchestras in Paris and France. During the German occupation in France, he conducted the conservatoire orchestra, refusing to conduct any German orchestras or works by any contemporary German composers. He also protected musicians in his orchestra from the gestapo and contributed to the French resistance, receiving the Légion d’honneur in 1945 and the degree of Commandeur in 1952.

In 1946, Munch became the music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a post he would maintain until 1962. Many of his recordings are still considered timeless, but there are also a few videos of him conducting in rehearsal and concert now available. His geniality and pure joy of making music with his colleagues on stage is infectious!