MAHLER: Symphony No. 4 in G.(Margaret Ritchie, soprano). Das
Lied von der Erde.(Nan Merriman, contralto. Ernst Haefliger,
tenor). Lieder eines fahrenden gesellen (2 performances
(Eugenia Zareska, contralto/London Philharmonic Orchestra). Nan Merriman,
This twin-disk set offers all of Dutch conductor Eduard van Beinum's commercial recordings of Mahler. Considering his identity with the composer's music, it seems odd he didn't record more, but we can be thankful for what we have There exist live performances of symphonies 3 and 6 in acceptable but disappointing sound. This site has a feature on VAN BEINUM. Collectors should check this out, as it contains a complete discography of his recordings both with the Concertgebouw and the London Philharmonic of which he briefly was director beginning in 1947.
Beinum's recording of Songs of a Wayfarer was Decca's first Mahler recording, made in Kingsway Hall November 26,1947 and December 16, 1947. Soloist was the remarkable Polish contralto Eugenia Zareska (1819 - 1979). She is the definitive Marina in Boris Christoff's 1952 recording of Boris Godunov Her rich voice is perfect for Mahler, as was that of American contralto Nan Merriman, a favorite of van Beinum. Swiss tenor Ernest Haefliger excels in the demanding tenor role. He and Merriman some years later would record Das Lied von der Erde a second time with the Concertgebouw, with Eugen Jochum on the podium. This performance is available in DGG's new Eugen Jochum set (REVIEW). Both of the Merriman Beinum performances were recorded during the same sessions December 8 - 12, 1956. While the audio is very good, it is unfortunate it is not in stereo; the first official Concertgebouw stereo recordings were made March 1957 (Debussy Nocturnes/La Mer).
The Dutch orchestra can be heard on many recordings of Symphony No. 4. The earliest is the remarkable 1939 live broadcast conducted by Willem Mengelberg, who was a close friend of the composer. Jo Vincent was soprano soloist. A unique performance, essential in any Mahler collection; it is available in a superb remastering from PRISTINE CLASSICAL. The next recording was made April/May 1952 for Decca with Beinum and Margaret Ritchie. In 1961, Georg Solti made his famous recording with Sylvia Stahlman (I prefer it to his later Chicago Symphony version). Incidentally, I understand from Ken Wilkinson who engineered the sessions that they went so well there was scheduled but unused recording time, which resulted in Anatole Fistoulari coming in at the last minute to record excerpts from Swan Lake. This is a magnificent recording in every way, and was first mentioned on this site when issued on the private label Sound Dynamics. Fortunately for collectors, this recording now has its first official CD release, included in a huge Decca album (REVFIEW). There are several performances with of Mahler 4 with Bernard Haitink during his tenure as Music Director. One with Maria Ewing is also available on video. Others feature Elly Ameling, Christine Schaefer and Roberta Alexander. There also is a performance with Mariss Jansons with Dorothy Rothmann. And there are other historic performances as well including Bruno Walter, 1952 (Elisabeth Schwartzkopf), and 1955 with Klemperer (Maria Stader)/. In 1999 Riccardo Chailly made his Decca recording with Barbara Bonney, and do not overlook Leonard Bernstein's 1987 version with boy soprano Helmut Wittek.
The Beinum performance of Mahler Symphony No. 4 is remarkably straightforward, very unlike Willem Mengelberg's unique live 1040 live performance. Bainum's interpretation is utilizes portamento sparingly and, of course, orchestral playing is magnificent. This symphony, and the other works, are an important part of the Dutch conductor's recorded legacy. Let us hope Pristine will continue to explore the artistry of Eduard van Beinum
R.E.B. (April 2017)