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The Artistry of Eduard van Beinum (1943-1948 Polydor and Decca Recordings)
Eduard Van Beinum
The Artistry of Eduard van Beinum (1943-1948 Polydor and Decca Recordings)
Genre: Classical
 
  •  Track Listings (11) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (8) - Disc #2
  •  Track Listings (19) - Disc #3
  •  Track Listings (15) - Disc #4


      
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CD Reviews

Van Beinum's Artistry in First-Class Transfers
T. Beers | Arlington, Virginia United States | 11/22/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The very special sound of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, wonderfully transparent yet warm, with a pronounced bias toward the woodwinds, was the invention of the orchestra's second music director, Willem Mengelberg. Eduard van Beinum succeeded Mengelberg in the mid 1940s, and you couldn't imagine a greater contrast of conductor personalities. Where Mengelberg constantly pushed his own flamboyant, brilliantly assertive personality onto every score he performed, van Beinum more modestly interpreted music according to what was printed in the score. At least, that's what van Beinum claimed to be doing. Mengelberg was quite literally irreplaceable, but van Beinum's more modest talent resulted in subtle and memorable performances, and his technical ability as leader helped ensure that the Concertgebouw remained one of the world's great orchestras in the years following the older man's exit. And it has always retained that special sound. I grew up on van Beinum's Decca recordings in the 1960s, when many of them were reissued on "Richmond" Lp reprints that sold for about $2.00. Although mono-only, these Lps beautifully conveyed the Amsterdam sound in ways that even impressed my assertively skeptical younger self. I recently heard some of these same van Beinum performances re-issued as CDs on the British Dutton label. I had high hopes that I would once again hear that fabulous Decca/Amsterdam sound, but I was bitterly disappointed. The Dutton CDs, remastered to sound aggressively "hi-fi," are bright and edgy and shallow-sounding. The orchestra you hear could be any one of a score of today's faceless, pasteurized symphonic bands. Music and Arts, on the other hand, attempts a much less total reprocessing of the Decca source material (from 78s and Lps) and manages to rescue the wonderful sounds I heard from those old Richmond Lps. There are trade-offs, of course. You will hear surface noise on the M&A set that you won't hear on the Dutton CDs. You will also hear real music and the unique Amsterdam sound that lives on in Mengelberg's orchestra. As for the performances, sometimes a simple, direct approach can work wonders to bring a sense of freshness to overly familiar scores. I think van Beinum's performances of the Bartok Concerto and the Berlioz and Bruckner symphonies are among the freshest-sounding (and loveliest) you will hear. The Reger performances are, simply stated, the best I have ever heard (especially the "Ballet Suite"). These derive from German wartime Polydor originals, but they also sound quite fine. The Mozart and Britten performances are also cherishable. Only the Stravinsky "Rite" recording presents major problems, and these derive from the original recording (variable sound quality; somewhat shrill overall). All told, van Beinum's gifts have never been put on better display than in this set, beautifully re-engineered by M&A's great engineer Maggi Payne. Buy these discs, unless you are completely put off by surface noise."
Van Beinum's "Cool" Approach
Thomas F. Bertonneau | Oswego, NY United States | 03/10/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)

"One can might usefully think of conductors as "hot" or "cool." Furtwängler and Mengelberg belonged to the "hot" category: Each one poured his life's blood into every performance and, so to speak, immolated himself on the altar of artistic sublimity. Weingartner and Toscanini belonged to the "cool" category: Each one stood back from the music for the sake of a kind of abstract perfection in getting the notes right. We need both types, although every listener will have his preference. (I like it "hot.") Eduard van Beinum (1901-1959) played it "cool," but he could hardly have distinguished himself from Mengelberg, whom he succeeded at the helm of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, without doing otherwise. The situation required contrast, especially given the alleged political affiliations of the "hot" precursor. Let us post a proviso, however: That "cool" does not necessarily mean unexciting or unappealing. Both Richard Strauss and Igor Stravinsky were "cool" conductors, but both also left behind a raft of fascinating playback versions of their own music. "Coolness" entails scientific precision, studiousness in articulation, even an attitude of mild irony toward the task at hand - and these things can (and do!) illuminate an oft-heard score. So it is as we listen through the varied repertoire in this fascinating boxed set from Music and Arts. Van Beinum leads a Bruckner Seventh (1947) that constitutes a matter-of-fact tour of the work's main points; it resembles a reading of the Bruckner Fourth led by Klemperer, also with the Concertgebouw, from the same year and available recently on Tahra. A break from the "hot" Bruckner of Furtwängler and Knappertsbusch cleanses the palette and permits us to remember that an objective basis does indeed exist beneath the Teutonic pilings-on that, to some extent, distort this score in its best-known interpretations. The "cool" approach works quite well in the cases of Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra, recorded in 1948 and, like the Bruckner symphony, in fine sound. Reger's Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Mozart absolutely requires the kind of careful articulation that van Beinum brings to it, for it otherwise tends to disappear into its own complicated counterpoint. Like Reger's Ballet-Suite (also on the program), the Variations comes from studio sessions in 1943, or during the Nazi occupation. Again, Britten's Four Sea Interludes and Passacaglia respond congenially to the "cool" approach. Berlioz's "Symphonie fantastique" (recorded in 1946) needs more fire than van Beinum lends it, stressing as he does the composer's classical side. Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring," on the other hand, despite its expressionistic moments, does well by a "cool" reading. (Like the Berlioz, the Stravinsky comes from 1946.) The listing on the back of the jewel-box fails to list a snippet of Tschaikovsky tucked away between Berlioz and Britten, leading to some some confusion in the tracking on CD 1. The sound, as one expects from the DG (Polydor) and Decca engineers who made many of these recordings, is fine, impressive even for the vintage. In the Bruckner symphony especially the strings achieve great luminosity and the brass find just the right subdued burnish. The production-values please in every wise, with an attractive booklet and good notes. Serious collectors will likely be the ones to take an interest in this, which is a shame, as these recordings deserve to be widely known."