Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Liszt, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Franck, Debussy, Bart—k, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Badings, H Andriessen, etc

COMPOSERS: Bach,Badings,Bartok,Beethoven,Brahms,Debussy,etc,Franck,H Andriessen,Liszt,Mozart,Schoenberg,Schubert,Stravinsky,Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Q Disc
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Eduard Van Beinum Live
WORKS: Works
PERFORMER: Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra/Eduard van Beinum
CATALOGUE NO: 97015 (distr. One for You) ADD mono
Eduard van Beinum succeeded Mengelberg and preceded Haitink at the Concertgebouw. He died suddenly, relatively young, having steered the orchestra through a war, Nazi occupation and postwar reconstruction. A superb, unshowy conductor, he consistently achieved performances little short of perfection. (I was virtually turned on to Brahms by van Beinum’s Philips LP of the Second Symphony: I’m still not sure I know a better.)

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These live performances for Dutch radio show his breadth, and a great orchestra always on its mettle. The archive recordings, mainly from fragile glass discs subsequently transferred to tape and DAT, span the period 1935-58; the earliest suffer surface noise, microphone clicks and occasional distortion. But it takes little effort to hear beyond that to musicianship of a very high order. Sadly, there’s no Bruckner (van Beinum was an early champion), but French music, in which he was renowned, is well-illustrated, especially by a stunning La mer from the Occupation. The fleetness of ‘Jeux de vagues’ and the whiplash precision of the playing have to be heard to be believed. He liked to consider himself merely part of the orchestra, primus inter pares: this mutual confidence comes across in rehearsing Mozart’s No. 40. With only a couple of brief stops, it’s a true performance, shaped on the wing by van Beinum’s modest vocal obbligato. He disliked the Second Viennese School, yet his Schoenberg Op. 16 rivals any later version for clarity, intensity and purposeful shaping. Naturally he favoured Dutch music: the Andriessen, Badings, Diepenbrock, Escher, Pijper, etc here include some impressive pieces completely unavailable elsewhere.

Van Beinum was celebrated as an orchestral accompanist (‘he anticipates a slight ritardando I’m going to make in 16 bars’ time,’ said one soloist). Some of the concertos with eminent players are revelatory: a magisterial Beethoven C minor with Solomon; an extraordinarily sweet-toothed Beethoven Violin Concerto from Zino Francescatti. Mack Harrell (father of cellist Lynn) is a wonderfully fresh, youthful-voiced baritone in Bach’s Cantata No. 56. Best of all, perhaps, despite variable sound from a private recording, is Dinu Lipatti, radiant and incomparably focused in a real rarity, Busoni’s 1900 recasting of Bach’s D minor Keyboard Concerto.

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The bonus DVD – a TV relay of the Eroica on the anniversary of Holland’s liberation – is grainily primitive, but confirms van Beinum as the least prima donna-ish of conductors. Communicating with the eyes and small hand-movement he produces an absolutely searing interpretation, and the sound is good apart from a couple of drop-outs. A fascinating collection.