BRUCKNER:  Symphony No. 4 in E Flat "Romantic"
Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orch/Eduard van Beinum, cond.


SCHUBERT:  Symphony No. 9 in C Major.  BRITTEN:  Four Sea Interludes and Passacaglia from Peter Grimes
Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orch/Eduard van Beinum, cond.


Eduard van Beium is responsible for the Concertgebouw Orchestra's Bruckner tradition. Before him, under Willem Mengelberg, the focus was on music of Gustav Mahler although during Mengelberg's half-century tenure as leader of the orchestra he conducted 44 performances of Bruckner symphonies. The first was Symphony No. 3 in 1891, next came No. 4 the following year. His favored symphonies were No. 9 (11 performances), No. 3 (9 performances) and No. 4 (8 performances). When Beinum gave his first official concert as conductor of the Orchestra in 1931 the program included the Eighth symphonies of Beethoven and Bruckner. From that time until his death in 1959 he conducted 145 Bruckner symphony performances, his favorites being No. 7 (43 performances), No. 8 (30 performances) and No. 9 (18 performances).  He made commercial recordings of  Symphonies 7 (twice), 8 and 9, and there is a live performance of Symphony No. 5 recorded during a concert March 12, 1959. 

Now we have this live recording of Symphony No. 4 (Haas version) thought to be from the concert of February 26, 1956. It is a vital, dynamic reading of great intensity; has the Scherzo ever before been as vibrant—and as intensely played?  It's a knock-out performance, with well-balanced mono radio sound.

The second CD is important featuring a live concert recording attributed to 1950 of Schubert's "Great" C Major Symphony.  As usual with Van Beinum, he moves it along, probably too hastily for some listeners. He never recorded this symphony commercially although he did record Nos. 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8.  The sound is well-defined mono rather lacking in typical Concertgebouw resonance.  At 3:30 into the first movement there is a tad of music missing, as if a few inches of the open reel tape had been excised. Filling out the CD we have the first (September 1947) of Beinum's two recordings of the Four Sea Interludes and Passacaglia from Britten's Peter Grimes, taken from the original 78's in noise-free transfers equal to the quality of the previous CD issue on M&A. 

These releases are from a  new Concertgebouw Series all of which will be covered on this site.  It seems rather strange that these are called "Audiophile Classics" when program material—quite old tapes and disks—hardly represent state-of-the-art sound.  The CDs are mid to full-priced.

R.E.B. (April 2001)