EDUARD VAN BEINUM ORIGINAL MASTERS
EDUARD VAN BEINUM - GREAT CONDUCTORS OF THE 20TH CENTURY
Both of these Eduard van Beinum sets contain items of interest although repertory choices aren't very imaginative. The Decca set is of the most interest as it contains fine new remasterings from original tapes superior to any previous releses. Surely the snarling brass in Symphonie fantastique has never been as clear, and there is a solidity in the bass not heard before on CD. Strings are overly bright as they always have been on the original 1951 recording. Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra, taken from the original five 78rpm disks recorded Sept. 20, 1948, has been issued several times previously on CD; this Decca transfer is the best ever. Admittedly van Beinum was important in the history of the London Philharmonic and this is represented by inclusion of Beethoven's music for Prometheus, Mozart's Symphony No. 35 and Lalo's Symphonie espagnole with Alfredo Campoli as soloist.
All five CDs in the Decca set are well-filled. But other important Beinum recordings should have been included. Even with chosen repertory, there would have been room for the first recording Beinum made with the LPO, Malcolm Arnold's comedy overture Beckus the Dandipratt, in which the composer, then first trumpet of the orchestra, played the demanding trumpet part. The overtures of Thomas and Nicolai show Beinum's elegance in lighter repertory. The four Rossini overtures are also welcome, although they hardly represent the conductor in his true idiom (these transfers are superior to what is heard on the Japanese Decca CD 4714). Many other Beinum Decca recordings remain unavailable including Mahler's Symphony No. 4 (issued in 1988 on Decca 421 140), Sibelius' En Saga and Tapiola, and Britten's Four Sea Interludes and Passacaglia from Peter Grimes (the l atteronce available on Decca 440 063—minus the Passacaglia, a CD that featured a live recording of the world premiere of Britten's Spring Symphony, recorded July 9, 1949).
EMI's twin-CD set is a strange, perverse concoction for the same reasons, others as well. Beinum/Concertgebouw recordings of Schubert's Symphony No. 6 and Brahms' Symphony No. 2 are already available on Philips (462 724 and 462 534 respectively); inclusion of a live performances of the Brahms Symphony No. 2 recorded Sept. 16, 1955 in Stuttgart seem rather redundant. Strauss' Don Juan recorded at the same concert is welcome, but more welcome would be Beinum's Sept. 23, 1949 Decca Don Juan, a very rare recording. Elgar's Cockaigne Overture, recorded May 13, 1949, is one of the first Elgar recordings by a non-British conductor, it was issued on CD before in a less satisfactory trnsfer on a now-deleted Beulah CD (2PD15). The conductor's vivid Scheherazade, here a dynamic orchestral tour-de-force, is welcome indeed in its first official CD transfer—and what a performance it is! Let us hope both EMI and Decca will continue their exploration of Van Beinum's recorded legacy. There is much yet to be released.
R.E.B. (July 2003)