Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 (Munch, New York Philharmonic)

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss
This Saturday, September 26, marks the birth anniversary of the great Alsatian conductor Charles Munch (1891-1968), and so I present the first recording he made in America, in 1947, not with the Boston Symphony (that appointment was to come two years later) but with the New York Philharmonic. It's also the second-only recording made anywhere of Saint-Saëns' "Organ" Symphony (after Piero Coppola's 1930 version for French HMV) - perhaps understandably, it wasn't until the stereo era that the piece became the vehicle for high-powered collaborations between famous organists and conductors that it is now:

Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 78
Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York conducted by Charles Munch
Edouard Nies-Berger (organ); Walter Hendl (piano)
Recorded November 10, 1947
Columbia Masterworks set MM-747, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 90.03 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 54.40 MB)

Edouard Nies-Berger (1903-2002), born in Munch's hometown of Strasbourg, was a protegé of Albert Schweitzer. He came to the USA in 1922 and was the official organist of the New York Philharmonic at the time this recording was made. Shamefully, Columbia did not even bother to identify his first name, billing him on the cover and labels as "E. Nies-Berger." But that was more information than they gave about the pianist, who was completely uncredited. James North, in his Philharmonic discography, says that Walter Hendl (1917-2007), then the assistant conductor of the orchestra, fulfilled this role.


  1. Alternate links:



  2. Thanks, Bryan. Do you happen to have the first (mono) Ormandy Columbia LP recording with Biggs, recorded (I believe) in Boston?

  3. Thanks for making this available. I've always preferred it to Munch's Boston stereo remake, even though critics still cite that as the best version ever recorded. I've also never quite understood why the organ soloists are given such prominence in the credits, since their solo parts are spare and simple. (I rail about both a bit in my article on the Organ Symphony at: .)

  4. Thanks Bryan, always a pleasure to discover a new record release on your blog!

  5. You might like to compare your transfer with this one from the LP version (ML 4120), which was posted earlier this month at El baúl del coleccionista:

    These postwar Columbia sets were pressed on such crappy laminated shellac that the LPs almost always sound better. (On the other hand, the extra speed of the 78s does give the sound a little more wallop!)

  6. Dear Anon, is there a password for the file at El baul del coleccionista?

  7. I'm a bit confused: isn't the piano part for four hands?

  8. I'm a bit confused: isn't the piano part for four hands?