Review by: Jed Distler
Artistic Quality: 8
Sound Quality: 4
At long last, the artistry of Eduard van Beinum has found its way onto reissues. Music and Arts focuses on the underrated Dutch conductor’s pre-LP recordings with the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Beinum’s direct, unmannered approach to music-making markedly contrasted with that of his flamboyant, colorful predecessor, yet the younger conductor maintained, and arguably improved the orchestra’s ensemble values. What’s more, Beinum fervently championed music of his time both in the hall and on disc. His 1947 recording of Britten’s Four Sea Interludes and “Passacaglia” from Peter Grimes, for instance was recorded just two years after the opera’s premiere. And Beinum’s Bartok Concerto for Orchestra, recorded a year later, was only the work’s second recording (Reiner/Pittsburgh came first). Reviewing its transfer on Dutton, Luca Sabbatini commented on the performance’s undeniable blemishes. The murky soundstage surrounding Beinum’s 1948 Rite of Spring abets both Luca and my impressions of its generalized, overly smooth orchestral blend. Among this work’s 78-era versions, I prefer the composer’s incisive 1940 New York Philharmonic recording, which still awaits a first-class CD transfer.
Conversely, there’s nothing remotely bloated concerning Beinum’s lean and lithe Bruckner Seventh. This 1947 recording was coupled with a charming, characterful Tchaikovsky Waltz from the Serenade for Strings, also included in this set. Kathleen Long’s low-key refinement puts an Apollonian spin to Mozart’s intense C minor Concerto K. 491, never reissued before on CD. Less well engineered but equally welcome in its first silver-disc incarnation are rare 1943 Polydor sets with Reger’s schlag-filled Eine Ballett-Suite and a beautifully brought-off Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Mozart. The conductor’s sturdy 1946 Berlioz Symphonie fantastique counted among this war-horse’s strongest shellac versions. It’s less hectic in the outer movements than the conductor’s 1951 remake, yet not quite so transparent in texture or well-recorded as Munch’s elegant, quicksilver 1945 Paris version (A Classical Record).
I’ve hedged in bringing up the transfers, because they prove this collection’s weakest component. To be sure, the overall sound is true to the original 78s, but the discs supplied by Nathan E. Brown to transfer agent Maggi Payne are not the cleanest copies available. Michael Dutton achieves brighter results in his well-scrubbed restorations of the Bartok, Stravinsky, Bruckner, Tchaikovsky, and Berlioz items for his own Dutton label. True, collectors get an attractive bargain at Music and Arts’ reduced asking price, but just know that most of the material is better transferred elsewhere. Robert E. Benson’s notes are succinct and informative.
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Recording Details:Album Title: THE ARTISTRY OF EDUARD VAN BEINUM
Reference Recording: None
Various - Various