It’s often lamented that classical music suffers from a Golden Age syndrome, placing all of its greatest moments in the distant past. But posterity can also be unkind to the re-creative artist. Serge Koussevitzky was the most significant music director in the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s history, yet there is not a single modern English-language biography of him or an authoritative book written after his death that places his Russian and American careers in full perspective.
Until recently, Charles Munch, who presided over the BSO as its music director from 1949 to 1962, faced the same blank space on the musical bookshelf, one that has only now, fortunately, been filled by D. Kern Holoman’s elegant new biography, “Charles Munch’’ (Oxford University Press). Holoman, a professor of music and conductor at the University of California Davis, provides not just a colorful and warmly affectionate account of the life and career of “le beau Charles,’’ but also brings context to the major institutional changes that took place during his tenure, a pivotal period in American orchestral life.