WILLEM MENGELBERG -- "MAESTRO APPASSIONATO"
VIVALDI:  Concerto Grosso in A Minor, Op. 3 No. 8 (rec. 1937). BACH:  Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins (Louis Zimmermann & Ferdinand Helmann, rec. 1935).  Overture from Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor (rec. 1931). Air from Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D (rec. 1937).  MOZART:  Serenade in G, K. 525 (rec. 1942).  WEBER:  Der Freischutz and Oberon overtures (rec. 1931/1928).  BEETHOVEN:  Symphony No. 6 in F, Op. 68 (rec. 1938).  Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92 (rec. 1940).  SCHUBERT:  Symphony No. 8 in B Minor (rec. 1942).  Symphony No. 9 in C (rec. 1942).  BRUCH:  Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26 (Guila Bustabo, rec. 1940).  WAGNER:  Tannhöuser Overture (rec. 1940).  Prelude to Act I of Lohengrin (rec. 1927).  LISZT:  Les Pr╚ludes.  BORODIN:  In the Steppes of Central Asia (rec. 1941).  BRAHMS:  Symphony No. 3 in F, Op. 90 (rec. 1932).  Academic Festival Overture (rec. 1930).  Tragic Overture (rec. 1942).  TCHAIKOVSKY:  Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74 (rec. 1941).  Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture (rec. 1930).  Overture 1812, Op. 49 (rec. April 1940).  FRANCK:  Symphony in D Minor (rec. 1940).  DEBUSSY:  Fantaisie (Walter Gieseking, rec. 1938).  RAVEL:  Daphnis and Chloe Suite No. 2 (rec. 1938).  MAHLER:  Symphony No. 4 in G (Jo Vincent, rec. 1939).  STRAUSS:  Don Juan, Op. 20 (rec. 1938).  Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40 (rec. 1941).  BARTÓK:  Violin Concerto No. 2 (Zoltán Sz╚kely, rec. 1939).  KODÁLY:  Peacock Variations (rec. 1939).
HISTORY 205254/58 (10-cd boxed set) (B) TT: 11 hr. 5:22
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For the novice Mengelberg collector with a limited budget this is a splendid way to start—these 10 CDs contain a wide sampling of the Dutch conductor's art, some in live performances, some commercial recordings—although documentation isn't too clear as to what is what...and there are some technical problems. Most of the transfers from original sources are excellent except as noted. Some of the recordings are live performances although documentation is a bit confusing; the listing on the back of the slipcase is not as complete; more details are on each CD jacket—and some of the informtion is incorrect. 

The most noticeable gaffe in the set is the transfer of Les Préludes, the 1929 Columbia recording which leaves out the first of the two pizzicato string notes. This brought back memories of the first CD issue of this music (EMI 69956, issued in 1988, mercifully long-deleted) in which the same thing happened. This is not that transfer—it sounds much better than the wretched EMI.  Pearl's superb first volume of Mengelberg Columbia recordings (CDS 9018) wonderfully transferred by Mark Obert-Thorn, of course includes that first note.

Franck's Symphony is listed as a live concert from October 1940; it is not—this is the Telefunken set recorded October 3 of that year. The concert of October 6, 1938 included Gieseking's magnificent Debussy Fantaisie and the Daphnis Suite; both have been issued on CD before but these transfers are as good as any. Of course Mengelberg's one-of-a-kind Mahler Fourth is an essential recording in any collection, recorded live November 9, 1939.  It's been issued many times on CD.

Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1 with Guila Bustabo (recorded live October 27, 1940 although not marked as "live") is a passionate performance already reviewed on this site; this is a way to obtain it at budget price. Of greater importance is the world premiere of Bartók's Violin Concerto No. 2 played by Zoltán Sz╚kely (recorded live March 23, 1939 although also not marked as "live").  Another world premiere is Kodály's Peacock Variations from a concert November 23, 1939. 

The first CD offers Vivaldi, Bach and Mozart in fine transfers although the date for the Air from Orchestral Suite No. 3 is incorrect:  this is a Telefunken 78 recorded December 21, 1937 (not in April 1942 as liner notes indicate). The date for Mozart's K. 525 also is incorrect.  This was recorded, also for Telefunken, November 1942, not "December 1940.")  Two Beethoven symphonies are included, the Telefunken Sixth from January 1938 (not December 22, 1937 as the liner says), and a live Seventh from April 25, 1940, a distinctive performance particularly in the finale.  A new Sixth has been discovered recorded during a concert May 22, 1938 which perhaps will make its way to CD.  The two Schubert symphonies are the Telefunken 78s recorded November 1942.

It is appropriate that Strauss be included and here we have two famous Telefunken recordings, Don Juan from November 9, 1938, and Ein Heldenleben from April 21, 1941.  One of Mengelberg's specialties, Wagner's Tannhöuser Overture, is heard in a live performance October 27, 1940.  There are a few minor mechanical "blurbs" in the opening moments that are not heard in the Music & Arts transfer (CD 780).  The transfer of the Lohengrin Prelude is quite good—the original 78's were distorted—how fascinating it is to hear this familiar music with all this portamento!

One entire CD is devoted to Tchaikovsky featuring the April  22, 1941 Telefunken recording of the Path╚tique,  the April 9, 1940 of 1812 for the same label, and Columbia's May 30, 1930 Romeo and Juliet.  Another side is devoted to Brahms, all Columbia recordings of  Symphony No. 3 (May 10, 1932), Academic Festival Overture (May 30, 1930) and Tragic Overture (April 1942, for Telefunken).

All in all, there's much of interest here—if you don't already have these on other labels.  It's odd that there could be so much incorrect information—and technical problems as outlined above—but the price is budget.  Very limited program notes. 

R.E.B. (Aug. 2001)