BEETHOVEN:  Symphony No. 3 in E Flat, Op. 55 "Eroica."  Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67.
Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orch/Erich Kleiber, cond.

DECCA LEGENDS 467 125 (M) (ADD)  TT:  77:42

A welcome addition to Decca's Legendary Performances series, restoring to the catalog two of the finest Beethoven symphony recordings ever made. However, there is a more than a touch of confusion in presentation on this CD.  The cover states "Legendary Performances 1953" when only Symphony 5 was recorded in that year; the magnificent Eroica was recorded in 1950.  The back CD cover leads one to expect "rare photos" of which there are few, but one shows about 18 players of the Concertgebouw Orchestra onstage and credits "Eduard van Beinum" (!!!) as the photographer (possible, but highly unlikely).   Also we might look for "technical recording information" which is nonexistent.  Page 9 states at the top "Technical Specification  - No technical records available" -- although on the next page basic recording information is given -- location (The Concertgebouw), Producer (Victor Olof), Recording engineer (Kenneth Wilkinson) and recording dates May 1950 for the Eroica {actually May 8), and September 1953 for the Fifth [actually September 26]. Notes do include a perceptive article by Mark Audus about Erich Kleiber's Beethoven, with photos of original LP covers for the two symphonies which will bring back fond memories for those who treasured initial releases.

Cover of original LP release of Kleiber's Eroica

The "96kHz 24-bit Super Digital Transfers" are a touch strident; original LP sound was warmer.  Fortunately  two dreadful splices in the Eroica's last movement heard on the original LP release have been corrected.  This recording was issued previously on CD in1992 in London's "Historic" series (433 406) with no coupling.

Kleiber's magnificent Fifth was issued on CD in 1987 (London 417 637) coupled with the Pastoral recorded September 28-30, 1953.  The only other Kleiber/Concertgebouw recording is Symphony No. 7 recorded May 9, 1950, issued on CD in 1991 coupled with Kleiber's London Philharmonic Mozart Symphony No. 40 (425 987).   As total playing time for Kleiber's Six and Seven is less than 75 minutes, perhaps Decca will consider issuing a coupling of the two.

Other worthy Kleiber Beethoven performances remain unavailable.  His second Eroica, recorded in 1955 with the Vienna Philharmonic (in which he restores the first movement's exposition repeat), was issued in 1985 on London (414 626), and his Ninth recorded in June 1952 with the VPO was issued in 1990 (425 955), both long-deleted.

These are major "historic" reissues and highly recommended—in spite of production gaffs.