ANTHOLOGY OF THE ROYAL CONCERTGEBOUW ORCHESTRA VOLUME II - 1950-1960
BRAHMS: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 77. Nathan Mistein, violinist/Pierre Monteux, cond. {Oct. 12, 1950}. DVORAK: Symphony No. 7 in D minor, Op. 70. Rafael Kubelik, cond. {Feb. 2, 1950}. DEBUSSY: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. BERLIOZ: Roman Carnival Overture. DE FALLA: El Amor Brujo. BRAHMS: Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 73. Leopold Stokowski, cond. {July 5, 1951}. TANSMAN: Musique pour orchestra. Rafael Kubelik, cond. {Mar. 23, 1950}. RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18. Julius Katchen, pianist/Rafael Kubelik, cond. {June 3, 1951}. JANACEK: Taras Bulba. Rafael Kubelik, cond. {June 16, 1951}. HENKEMANS: Violin Concerto. Theo Olof, violinist/Eduard Van Beinum {Dec. 23, 1951}. BEETHOVEN: Ah, perfido, Op. 65. Gre Brouwenstijn, soprano/Otto Klemperer, cond. {April 26, 1951}. Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92. Josef Krips, cond. (May 24, 1952). MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64. Isaac Stern, violinist/Rafael Kubelik, cond. {June 21, 1951}. VAN DER HORST: Symphony No. 1, Op. 23. Eduard van Beinum, cond. {Oct. 18, 1951). BARTÓK: Viola Concerto. William Primrose, violist/Otto Klemperer, cond. {Jan. 11, 1951}. MOZART: Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550. Bruno Walter, cond. {June 6, 1952}. MAHLER: Symphony No. 4 in G major. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, soprano/Bruno Walter, cond. {June 6, 1952}. STRAUSS: Don Juan, Op. 20. Bruno Walter, cond {June 6, 1952}). BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 3 in D minor. Rafael Kubelik, cond. {Jan. 28, 1954}. SCHOENBERG: Transfigured Night, Op. 4. Otto Klemperer, cond. {July 7, 1953}. RAVEL: Daphnis and Chloe. Pierre Monteux, cond. {June 23, 1955}. WAGNER: Siegfried Idyll. Pierre Monteux, cond. {Feb. 19, 1953}. HENKEMANS: Harp Concerto. Phia Berghout, harpist/Eduard van Beinum, cond. {Dec. 19, 1956}. MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 22 in E Flat, K. 482. Annie Fischer, pianist/Otto Klemperer, cond. {July 12, 1956}. MOZART: Ch'io mi scordi di te / Non temer, amato bene, KV 505. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, soprano/Otto Klemperer, cond. {Feb. 6, 1957}. MAHLER: Symphony No. 3 in D minor. Maureen Forrester, contralto; Toonkunstkoor Amsterdam; Boys Choir Zanglust/Eduard van Beinum, cond. {July 14, 1957}. VERMEULEN: Passacaille et Cortège from 'De vliegende Hollander.' (Eduard van Beinum, cond. {Mar. 17, 1957}. Symphony No. 2 'Prelude à la nouvelle journée.' Eduard van Beinum, cond. {July 5, 1956}. DRESDEN: Dansflitsen. Rafael Kubelik, cond. {Jan. 28, 1954}. CHAUSSON: Poème, Op. 25. Arthur Grumiaux, violinist/George Szell, cond. {Nov. 28, 1958}. WALTON: Partita for Orchestra. George Szell, cond. {Nov. 27, 1958}. STRAUSS: Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30. Dimitri Mitropoulos, cond. {Aug. 10, 1958}. WEBERN: Six Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6. Hans Rosbaud, cond. {July 2, 1959}. BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 2 in C minor. Bernard Haitink, cond. {July 9, 1959}. SCHOENBERG: Variations for Orchestra. Hans Rosbaud, cond. {June 26, 1958}. BARTOK: Miraculous Mandarin Suite. Antal Dorati, cond. {Jan. 30, 1958}. RAVEL: La valse. George Szell, cond. {Nov. 28, 1957}.
Q DISC MCCL 97018 (14 CDS) 16 hrs. 19 min.
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Again we are indebted to NM Classics for another volume (the second) in their Anthology of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra series. This one covers the period 1950-1960 and contains many unusual treasures as well as a number of performances that have already been issued: the fine Daphnis and Chloe with Monteux which currently is available on both Audiophile Classics and Music & Arts, Bruno Walter's Mozart, Mahler and Strauss all of which are available on Music & Arts, and the Brahms concerto with Monteux/Milstein, available on Audiophile Classics and Arioso (as well as a discontinued Tahra set). However, there are many fascinating items here including a number of major additions to Eduard van Beinum's discography. We have Beinum conducting music of Dutch composers Hans Henkemans (1913-1995), Anthony van der Horst (1899-1965), and Matthijs Vermeulen (1888-1967). The violin concerto by Hans Henkemans with Theo Olof as soloist was premiered in October 1951, repeated Deember 23rd of that year when this broadcast recording was made; in May of 1954 they would make their Philips recording. Horst was a native organist, teacher, pianist and conductor of a number of annual presentations of Bach's St. Matthew Passion—all of which seems quite alien from what is heard in his Symphony No. 1 which was composed 1935-1939. The first movement, marked Vehemente, and the finale, marked Presto tumultuoso, are both agitated and dissonant, with the third movement, Notturno, offering the only respite. The 31-minute work was premiered by Beinum February 12, 1942, generally well-received although I find it of little interest. Equally prosaic are two works by Vermeulen. Passacaille et Cortège is a 16-minute excerpt from his music for the stage play De Vliegende Hollander in which the composer suggests endless rolling waves by low instruments in the orchestra repeating the same theme fifty-eight times. Beinum, for reasons I do not understand, championed this music, programming it in England as well as Amsterdam. Equally disappointing is Vermeulen's 23-minute Symphony No. 2, a violent, abrasive incohesive score that also was favored by Beinum. One could not say Beinum neglected native composers—regardless of the quality of their music..

More Dutch music is conducted by Rafael Kubelik who leads Dansflitsen by Sem Dresden (1881-1957). Kubelik and the Concertgebouw gave the world premiere of this music, which is a series of short sprightly dances, January 20, 1954. This lightweight score is of greater interest than Musique pour orchestre, composed in 1947 by Alexander Tansman (1897-1986), who was born in Poland and later became a French citizen: Critics were kind, describing the music as "a touch of Stravinsky, a touch of Ravel, and also a good dose of jazz." It's one of the most banal orchestral pieces I've ever heard, in spite of the fine performance.

Commissioned works often fall short of the desired goal and that was the case with the harp concerto composed by Henkemans to celebrate Beinum's 25th anniversary jubilee with the Concertgebouw. The work was premiered in Rotterdam December 18, 1956 and this radio recording was made the next day in Amsterdam. Even with the fine playing of Phia Berghout, long-time harpist with the orchestra, and Beinum's advocacy, the concerto didn't amount to much.

Some famous soloists are heard in this set: Nathan Milstein in an Olympian performance of the Brahms violin concerto with Monteux on the podium, Julius Katchen playing Rachmannoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 with Rafael Kubelik conducting (seven years later Katchen would make his Decca recording in London with Solti); Isaac Stern playing Mendelssohn's violin concerto with Kubelik, a performance questioned at the time because of a supposed difference of interpretive ideas about the work, particularly in the finale. However, this was a good time in Stern's career (1951), and he was in fine form technically. Violist William Primrose gives a masterful performance of Bartok's Viola Concerto with Otto Klemperer conducting. Klemperer, who was a favorite in Amsterdam, accompanies soprano Gré Brouwenstijn in Beethoven's concert aria Ah! Perfido, and, with soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, the Mozart recitatve and aria listed above, which was "recorded for the radio" according to CD notes—but there was an audience. Klemperer also conducts the performance of Mozart's Piano Concert No. 22 with Annie Fischer (the CD booklet states this is conducted by Beinum, but it is not). Arthur Grumiaux is an elegant soloist in Chausson's Poème, Op. 25 with George Szell on the podium.

Bruno Walter's concert that began the Concertgebouw Summer Festival June 5, 1952 is heard in its entirety. It included Mahler's Symphony No. 4 with Schwarzkopf as soloist, Mozart's Symphony No. 40 and Strauss' Don Juan. After a few uncertain horn passages in the Mozart, the Concertgebouw is in fine form throughout. This recording was made the following day when the concert was repeated in Scheveningen where the acoustics are not as warm as the orchestra's home base.

Rafael Kubelik also can be heard conducting three of his specialties, Dvorak's Symphony No. 7 in 1950, Janacek's Taras Bulba, the latter from a concert that opened the 1951 Holland Festival, and a powerful performance of Bruckner's Symphony No. 3 dating from 1954. It's rather odd that producers of this set would include Bernard Haitink's live performance of Bruckner's Symphony No. 2 recorded in 1959 when his commercial recording made a decade later is still available. A highlight of this multiple-CD set is a remarkable performance from July 2, 1959 of Anton Webern's Six Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6 with the distinguished Hans Rosbaud on the podium. This conducter had requested the music be played twice at each of the two concerts that included it, and the music, which was receiving its Amsterdam premiere, was enthusiastically received by audiences. Rosbaud had first appeared with the orchestra a year earlier conducting another Amsterdam premiere, Schoenberg's Variations for Orchestra, also included in this set. Three other Rosbaud Concertgebouw recordings exist: a February 1, 1961 broadcast of Ketting's Sympony No. 1, and Philips recordings of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 with Robert Casadesus (February 1961) and Stravinsky's Petrushka (July 1962). Dimitri Mitropoulos conducted the Concertgebouw Orchestra just once and that was at the Salzburg Festival in 1958. The concert was given in the Festspielhaus which at that time was a very unresonant hall sounding very different from the rich sounds of the rebuilt hall. The dry acoustic does not flatter the superb performance. Josef Krips is heard in a dynamic performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 part of a 1952 complete Beethoven cycle.

A highpoint of this set is CD 2 which contains Leopold Stokowski's complete concert of July 5, 1951 at the Holland Festival, his ony apppearance with the Concertgebouw. What a pleasure to hear this blazing performance of Roman Carnival Overture, Falla's El Amor Brujo, the exquisite Debussy and stunning Brahms Symphony No. 2. The concert also contained Barber's Adagio for Strings, which apparently was not recorded. Also very special is Beinum's Mahler Symphony No. 3, a dazzling performance recorded during the 1957 Holland Festival. Beinum, as usual, keeps things moving resulting in an exhilarating listening experience. Antal Dorati was a favored guest in Amsterdam and made a number of fine Philips recordings with the orchestra including Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition in 1952 (which won a Grand Prix du Disque the following year), a superb complete Ma Vlast in 1956 and, in 1975, his near-definitive complete recording of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet. In the new Q Disc set Dorati leads a dazzling performance of a suite from Bartok's Miraculous Mandarin; it's unfortunate more of his work isn't included—perhaps it will be in Volume III.

George Szell also was a frequent visitor to Amsterdam and made a number of magnificent recordings with the Concertgebouw. Very welcomein this set is his stunning performance of a work commissioned by Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra, Walton's exhuberent Partita for Orchestra, from a concert in 1958, and Ravel's La Valse from a concert the previous year. Szell had indicated he was not enthusiastic about Ravel's view of the waltz, but one would never know it from the exciting performance heard in this set.

Sonic quality of this set is generally very good. Radio Nederland recordings always have been of the highest quality—but in this set there are some problems, which I understand have been solved in later pressings. There is a slight overloading of brass on CD 13 in Bruckner's Symphony No. 2 which probably is in the original recording, but in my copy of this 14-disk there are major electronic glitchs in Mahler's Symphony No. 3: in the first movement, on CD 10, there is a glitch at 9:26 into track one, and in the final movement on CD 11 there is another in track one at 12:44. If your copy has these defective disks you should return them to place of purchase for replacement.

This is a valuable set by any standard and I look forward to the four planned additional releases covering 1960-2000.

R.E.B. (February 2004)