BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 36. Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92.
Philharmonia Orch/Eduard van Beinum, cond.
BBC LEGENDS BBCL 4124 (F) (ADD) TT: 73:06
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Circumstances of these recorded concert performances are rather strange. Otto Klemperer already had recorded Beethoven's symphonies with the Philharmonia Orchestra and producer Walter Legge wanted to re-record them in October and November 1958. As often was the case, recording sessions were at the time of concert performances, which were scheduled in London's Royal Festival Hall. Because of Klemperer's illness he was unable to conduct and Legge had to find other conductors for the live concerts. Carlo Maria Giulini conducted the first concert October 17, 1958, and Legge invited Van Beinum to lead the rest. The Dutch conductor rearranged his Netherlands schedule so he could conduct the next six of the remaining eight concerts, but not the final concert, the Choral symphony. Klemperer perversely insisted that Paul Hindemith conduct that work, which was not a success—how sad for concertgoers Beinum wasn't available!

Beinum was well-known to London audiences as he had been music director of the London Philharmonic 1949-1951 and had made a number of successful recordings with that orchestra, and had conducted a Beethoven series with that orchestra in Royal Albert Hall in 1949. The two symphonies on this CD are from a concert November 10, 1958, which began with the Coriolan overture. One critic complained that Beinum had used four horns and three trumpets instead of the pairs of each in the scores, but otherwise reception was highly favorable. Beinum had recorded Symphony No. 2 with the Concertgebouw May 22, 1954; there exists a tape of a live performance with that orchestra that eventually might be issued. He never made a commercial recording of Symphony No. 7, so this performance is a particularly welcome addition to the conductor's discography. The BBC's mono sound is well-balanced, if a bit lacking in warmth. Let us hope tapes exist of other Beinum performances from this Beethoven series!

R.E.B. (October 2003)