EDUARD VAN BEINUM - LIVE - The Radio Recordings

LISZT:  Piano Concerto No. 2 in A (Josef Pembaur, pianist/September 8, 1935).  BACH:  Cantata No. 56 BWV 56 (Mack Harrell, baritone/February 19, 1939).  TCHAIKOVSKY:  Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture (June 6, 1940).  BACH:  Concerto in C Minor for Two Keyboards BWV 1060 (Eduard van Beinum/Johannes den Hergor, pianists/ December 11, 1939).  SCHUBERT:  Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, D. 965 (Jo Vincent, soprano/July 7, 1940).  SCHUBERT:  Entr'acte Act 3 & Ballet Music No. 2 from Rosamunde (July 7, 1940).  STEPHAN:  Musik für Geige und Orchester (George Kulenkampff, violinist/January 4, 1940).  FRANCK:  Symphonic Variations (Gerard Hengeveld, pianist/December 3, 1939).  RUDOLF MENGELBERG:  Salve Regina (To van der Sluys, soprano/October 2, 1939).  FRANCK:  Symphonic excerpts from PsychÈ (May 15, 1941).  RAVEL:  Piano Concerto in G (Cor de Groot, pianist/ November 28, 1940).  DEBUSSY:  La Mer (January 30, 1941).  BADINGS:  Cello Concerto No. 2 (Carel van Leeuwen Boomkamp, cellist/March 27, 1941).  TCHAIKOVSKY:  Symphony No. 4 in F Minor (February 13, 1941 & May 26, 1940).  DEBUSSY:  Printemps (July 8, 1942).  REGER:  Ballet Suite, Op. 130 (July 18, 1943).  BARTÓK:  Concerto for Orchestra (Decca recording September 10, 1948).  DEBUSSY:  Images  (December 19, 1948).  STRAVINSKY:  Firebird Suite (May 13, 1948).  RAVEL:  Suite No. 2 from Daphnis and Chloe (October 11, 1954). BACH:  Concerto in D Minor BWV 1952 (Dinu Lipatti, pianist/October 2, 1947).  BRAHMS:  Symphony No. 1 in C Minor (October 25, 1951).  RESPIGHI:  The Fountains of Rome (October 16, 1949).  ANDRIESSEN:  Miroir de Peine (Irma Kolassi, soprano/December 21, 1952).  SCHOENBERG:  Five Orchestral Pieces, Op. 16 (October 12, 1951).  BEETHOVEN:  Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor (Solomon, pianist/December 18, 1952).  PIJPER:  Symphony No. 3, K. 71 (October 2, 1957).  HENKEMANS:  Viola Concerto (Klaas Boon, viola/April 24, 1956).  ANDRIESSEN:  Symphony No. 4  (October 19, 1955).  ESCHER:  Musique pour l'esprit en deuil (Sept. 1, 1954).  BEETHOVEN:  Egmont Overture (October 11, 1954).  VERDI:  "Ella giamai m'amò" from Don Carlos (Boris Christoff, bass/April 18, 1956).  BEETHOVEN:  Violin Concerto in D (Zino Francescatti, violinist/March 19, 1958).  MOZART:  Violin Concerto No. 4 in D  (Yehudi Menuhin, violinist/June 8, 1956).  MOZART:  Symphony No. 40 in G Minor (rehearsal/September 20, 1956).  DIEPENBROCK:  Te Deum (Erna Spoorenberg, soprano/Nan Merriman, contralto/ Ernst Haefliger, tenor/Laurens Bogtman, bass/Toonkunstkoor Amsterdam/October 7, 1956).  BEETHOVEN:  Symphony No. 3 in E Flat "Eroica" (telecast May 5, 1957)(DVD)

TT:  12 hours, 52 min. + DVD 52 min.

Finally Dutch conductor Eduard van Beinum is receiving attention he so richly deserves with many of his superb performances appearing on CD. Philips has issued most of his commercial recordings for that label, available mostly in Holland. Dutton Laboratories, LYS and Japanese Decca also have issued a number of recordings (with many yet unissued—see our Features article on Van Beinum). Now we have this set of live concert performances dating from 1935 through 1958. The earliest are from 78 rpm acetates some of which were not in very good condition.  Some, not all, have surface disturbances even the most precise digital processing cannot eliminate. However, for the collector this is relatively insignificant considering these remarkable performances.

Van Beinum was known for his expertise as an accompanist, always sensitive to soloists, lending total support to their concept of a work. CD 1 begins with Liszt's Concerto No. 2 with Josef Pembaur as soloist recorded in September 1935. Pembaur (1875-1950) appeared frequently with the Concertgebouw under Mengelberg, usually playing music of Liszt and claimed to have studied with the Hungarian master. Pembaur was 70 at the time of this performance and perhaps from necessity opts for leisurely tempi—at 23 minutes this is perhaps the longest ever performance of this music—and not without its occasional missed notes. However, Dutch pianist Cor de Groot is in spectacular form in Ravel's Concerto in G, recorded in 1940. Under Van Beinum's dynamic direction the orchestral part receives a virtuoso, stunning performance.  I look forward to the forthcoming release of Ravel's Left Hand Concerto with the same artists to be issued on APR.

Of major importance is Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3 recorded in 1952 with British pianist Solomon as soloist, unusual in that he plays his own rather modest first-movement cadenza based on themes from the work. More quality Beethoven is heard in Zino Francescatti's performance of the Violin Concerto, the most recent recording in the set, from March 19, 1958. CD notes indicate that Francescatti was "too expensive" to appear frequently with the Concertgebouw (hard to believe!); this performance is from a gala concert to raise funds for the Rudolf Mengelberg Fund, about one year after Beinum made his magnificent recording of this concerto with Arthur Grumiaux for Philips (see the Features story for more about this).  Another internationally-famous violinist, Yehudi Menuhin, can be heard in a 1956 performance of Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 4, recorded in Vienna's Musikverein.

Van Beinum is heard as pianist in Bach's Concerto in C Minor BWV 1060 along with Johannes den Hertog, who until 1938 was the Concertgebouw's pianist. Married to Phia Berghout, the orchestra's first harpist, Hertog was appointed second conductor a year before this performance was recorded in 1939. The Dinu Lipatti performance of the Bach Concerto in D Minor recorded in 1947 has been issued before on CD (how unfortunate that Ravel's Piano Concerto in G also on the program was not recorded).

CÈsar Franck's Symphonic Variations was a work close to Van Beinum; he appeared as soloist in it when he made his pianistic debut with the Concertgebouw July 12, 1931, with Cornelius Dopper conducting, six weeks before he was appointed to succeed Dopper as second conductor of the Orchestra. Dutch pianist Gerard Hengeveld, was only 29 years old in 1939 when this concert was recorded. In May 1943 Beinum recorded the work for Polydor with Geza Anda as soloist (LYS 473).

Beinum shows his allegiance to Dutch music with Henk Badings' Cello Concerto (No. 2) with Carel van Leeuwen Boomkamp a superb soloist, recorded in 1941, a Viola Concerto by Hans Henkemans with Klaas Boon as soloist, recorded in 1956, and major symphonic works:  Willem Pijper's Symphony No. 3 from a concert in 1957 (he had recorded the work for Decca in 1953—with Clifford Curzon playing the piano part!); the Orchestra also performed it with Pierre Monteux on the podium October 16, 1960, issued on Donemus).  A major work is Hendrik Andriessen's Symphony No. 4 written in 1954 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Hague Philharmonic Orchestra, from a1955 concert.  Rudolf Escher, a student of Pijper, had his Music for the Mourning Soul premiered by Van Beinum in 1947; the performance in this set is doubtless the one given September 1, 1954 (the booklet doesn't give any date for this).

A gem in this collection is Andriessen's Miroir de Peine, a cycle of five songs based on texts by French poet Henri Vangeon, semi-religious, romantic in mood, telling the story of the Passion of Christ from the perspective of Mary. Originally written for voice and organ, they later were arranged for string orchestra.  This is a glorious performance by Greek mezzo-soprano Irma Kolassi, Beinum's only performance of the work—how fortunate we are that it was recorded!  Rudolf Mengelberg was a distant cousin of Willem Mengelberg, appointed managing director of the Concertgebouw in 1935; his music, cautiously described in the CD notes as "of a reasonably high quality," was performed by the orchestra on a regular basis. His Salve Regina for soprano and orchestra was written in 1934; Van Beinum performed it in October 1939 with To van der Sluys as soloist, and Mengelberg recorded it November 9, 1939, with Jo Vincent as soloist. Of much greater importance musically is Alphons Diepenbrock's Te Deum, a 21-minute work completed in 1897. Mengelberg conducted the first performance in 1902 and it was played frequently thereafter. Here we have a grandiose performance from December 7, 1956, a concert to mark Beinum's 25th anniversary as conductor of the Concertgebouw. This previously was issued in the Donemus 4-CD set of Music of the Netherlands.

Other vocal performances:  Schubert's Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, D. 965, in a version for orchestra by an unidentified arranger, sung by soprano Jo Vincent (who is soloist in Mengelberg's live 1939 recording of Mahler's Symphony No. 4), assisted by Rudolf Gall, first clarinet of the orchestra from 1921 to 1942.   American baritone Mark Harrell is heard in a 1939 performance of Bach's Cantata No. 56, a performance that shows the big-scale influence of Mengelberg's interpretations of that composer. An eloquent performance of "Ella giamai m'amo" from Verdi's Don Carlos is given by bass Boris Christoff recorded in 1956 at a benefit concert for the Rudolf Mengelberg Fund, with the important cello solo beautifully played by Tibor de Machula, long-time principal cellist.

Of major interest are Beinum's Debussy performances. He recorded La Mer in May of 1957 for Philips, identified as the Concertgebouw's first stereo recording; however this performance from many years earlier (1941) shows him in a more dynamic mood—the music scintillates—and attention to detail is extraordinary. He also recorded Images pour Orchestre for Philips, a mono recording made in May 1954; here we have a performance from 1948—again the live performance is more exciting. Printemps was seldom scheduled  by Beinum; how fortunate we are that his 1942 performance was recorded—everything sounds "right."  Stravinsky also was a specialty of Beinum; the CD notes the composer thought very highly of Beinum's 1946 Decca recording of The Rite of Spring.  Firebird also was a Beinum favorite; he recorded it for Philips in April 1956; this even more exciting performance is from a concert May 13, 1948, inexplicably identified as "Suite No. 2."

Brahms' Symphony No.1 was another Van Beinum specialty; he recorded it three times, first in 1947 for Decca 78s, second in 1951 for Decca LP, and third in 1958 in stereo for Philips. This new set contains a performance recorded in October 1951, about six months after the second Decca set. This is the symphony Van Beinum was rehearsing with his orchestra April 13, 1959 when he suffered a fatal heart attack.

Other works in this set that Beinum recorded commercially are Reger's Ballet Suite, Op. 130; he had recorded this for DGG May 1943; this performance is from a concert July 18 of the same year. May 1952 Beinum recorded excerpts from Schubert's Rosamunde; this set contains Entr'acte 3 and Ballet Music 2 from a 1940 concert, played with portamento not to be heard in the later recording—the Mengelberg influence is very obvious. Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra was recorded for Decca in 1948; apparently producers of this set felt it was important to include this music even though what is heard is not a concert performance—they have provided an excellent transfer of the Decca recording, already available in excellent transfers on other labels. Franck's PsychÈ was a favorite; in 1947 Beinum recorded PsychÈ and Éros for Decca, and in 1951 recorded the four excerpts that are heard in this live performance from a decade earlier.

The performance of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 is puzzling, taken from two concerts, February 13, 1941 (first three movements) and May 26, 1940 (finale). Some of the master acetate disks were lost and apparently the only way to get a complete performance is to combine the two. CD notes state that the first three movements "were unmistakably conducted by Van Beinum." Apparently it is uncertain who conducts the finale; to me it doesn't sound like either Beinum or the other possibility, Mengelberg. Surely the opening of the last movement isn't played the way Mengelberg does in his 1929 recording, and the odd tempi in the coda seem very unlike either Van Beinum or Mengelberg. Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet, from a 1940 concert, unmistakably is Van Beinum, with portamento not to be heard in his recording of the work with the London Philharmonic.

German composer Rudi Stephan wrote his Musik für Geige ("Music for Strings") in 1910. Scored for solo violin and strings, it is played here by George Kulenkampff, a favorite violinist of Van Beinum, who was soloist at the January 4, 1940 concert when this was recorded. Beinum apparently seldom conducted music of Schoenberg, although I would think he would be sympathetic to earlier works. October 1951 Beinum scheduled Five Orchestral Pieces, Op. 16 as a memorial to the composer who had died several months earlier. Respighi is another composer seldom conducted by Beinum, but here we have a magnificent performance of  Fountains of Rome; the attention to detail is extraordinary.

When the Concertgebouw toured the United States in 1954 they gave a concert in New York's Assembly Hall of the United Nations. Two performances from that event are included here, Beethoven's Egmont Overture and the second suite from Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe. The sound of the orchestra is quite different than the way it sounds in its home hall.

A complete—if interrupted—performance of Mozart's Symphony No. 40 recorded during a rehearsal in 1956 displays Van Beinum's caring, gentle and authoritative approach to music, as well as his respect for his musicians. No Toscanini tantrums here!

As a special bonus this set also gives us the opportunity to watch Van Beinum conducting Beethoven's Symphony No. 3, a performance televised May 5, 1957 at a special concert commemorating liberation-day.  It is well-produced although sometimes the cameras are in the wrong place, and much focus is on the conductor.  What a pleasure it is to watch his concise, direct, flowing leadership with a total absence of phony histrionics.    

This is a valuable set, handsomely produced, each CD generously filled.  Sound quality varies, and often is quite good, well-balanced mono. A most worthy addition to the Beinum discography. 

R.E.B. (November 2000)