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Great Conductors of the 20th Century: Eduard Van Beinum
Ambroise Thomas, Franz [Vienna] Schubert, Johannes Brahms
Great Conductors of the 20th Century: Eduard Van Beinum
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (9) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (7) - Disc #2


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Puzzling selections
R. Baker | Westerville, Ohio USA | 04/16/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)

"You would think that a series devoted to "Great Conductors" would be making a case for that claim. This van Beinum set oddly pulls its punches in that respect. Put his Brahms First (1958) and Bruckner Eighth (1956) -- both currently unavailable -- in the package and add, say, some live performances of Debussy and you would have a set of performances that would stand up to any. Instead, we get Scheherazade and some overture bon-bons, an early Schubert symphony (not bad, but you should hear Beinum's Schubert Third!) along with a live Brahms Second. Add to this a gratuitous quote in the notes from the omnipresent -- though long dead -- John Culshaw to the effect that Beinum was not really a very exciting conductor, and you have to wonder what case these people were trying to make.A hint: All this repertoire, with the exception of the live Brahms performance, was included in a commemorative 8 LP box set by Philips a number of years ago. This suggest that not a lot of original thought, or care, went into the selections. (And perhaps a ready-made package deal on release rights did?)The bottom line in all this is that at mid-price the set is worth it for the Scherazade alone. But in no way is it representative of van Beinum's art."
Somewhat dissapointing
Jeffrey Lee | Asheville area, NC USA | 09/10/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)

"All of the selections here were well recorded, except for the Don Juan (more about later). I am not very familiar with Thomas' Mignon Overture, a seemingly attractive piece, but Van Beinum makes it sound pleasant enough. In the Schubert Sixth Symphony, there is an odd juxtaposition of interpretive traits. Not infrequently, Van Beinum alternates between being too formal and pounding the daylights out of things. With charm and elegance on a holiday there's not much class to his Schubert. I had high hopes for the Brahms Second, since I have the mono recording Van Beinum made of it at about the same time this live performance was taped. That studio version was very fine. This audience take, however, finds the conductor rather low key in the first two movements. There is some animation in the third movement but not much grace. Only in the last movement, where there is a rousing conclusion, do things come alive.

The second disc opens with Nicolai's Overture to The Merry Wives of Windsor. At times, Van Beinum seems to push the music rather than let it unfold naturally. I don't think he is too comfortable here...With the Don Juan, things start with a rather closed in sound, and stay that way. The voltage seems turned down, and the usually tender opening violin passage that ushers in the wonderfully romantic portion of Don is truncated. From there to the work's end there doesn't appear to be much life, the dull recording itself being partly responsible...The Scheherazade is really fairly decent, but it is up against some tough competition. For color, adventurousness and charming, exotic warmth try Stokowski, Reiner, Beecham or Ansermet...Finally, there is the Cockaigne Overture by Elgar. This is one of my favorites of the classical repertoire. Van Beinum slides through too quickly in some passages, but his performance is generally quite good though it misses the affection of Barbirolli and the swagger of Solti in their accounts.

In closing, although I feel let down by a number of these performances, my admiration for Van Beinum remains undiminished. I've heard too many very fine things from him. I think he deserved better treatment in terms of what was chosen to be represented on these discs. I am aware of an exceptional Mendelssohn "Italian" Symphony and colorful Midsummer Night's Dream he made as well as some superb late Bruckner Symphonies, an attractively done, atmospheric Debussy combo including La Mer and Nocturnes, a lovely Schubert Rosamunde and what I consider to be one of the most outstanding stereo Brahms Firsts I've ever heard. Look in these and some other places for the best of Van Beinum's legacy."
Reliable performances from an admired conductor gone too soo
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 11/06/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)

"WW II ended very badly for the Concertgebouw, owing to the scandal that their legendary conductor, Willem Mengelberg, had been a Nazi sympathizer. His successor was the decent and modest Eduard van Beinum, who died in 1959 before he was sixty. Van Beinum cut no great swath through the musical world. He had a great orchestra at his command and two major record labels, Decca and Philips, but despite many releases, he made no truly memorable recordings that ever crossed my path. (He has his committed fans, of course, who feel very differently.)

I believe the knowledgable reviewer below who says that there are a lot better van Beinum performances around than these. The major works are decent enough Concertgebouw readings of the Schubert Sixth, Brahms Second (live), and Scheherazade. None of them clicked for me, but at least none are bad--workmanlike, I'd say. I stoped trying to track down great recordings from this conductor a long time ago, but he remains a favorite in England. (Nothing too exciting, please, we're British.)"