|MENDELSSOHN: Symphony No. 4 in A, Op. 90
"Italian." DEBUSSY: March écossaise. GRIEG:
Two Elegaic Melodies (Heart Wounds/The Last Spring). THOMAS: Mignon
Overture. NICOLAI: Merry Wives of Windsor Overture.
BERLIOZ: Roman Carnival Overture. SIBELIUS: Valse triste.
Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra/Eduard van Beinum, cond.
SOUND DYNAMICS CD (M) (Mono/Stereo) TT: 78:38
Sleeping Beauty Ballet
These Sound Dynamics CDs fill major gaps in the CD catalog. The Eduard van Beinum Philips recordings date from 1955 to 1958, the latest of which are in stereo, all extracted from an 8-LP set called The Art of Eduard van Beinum (6768 023). All except one are making their first appearance on CD, in perfect transfers. Of prime interest is the superb Mendelssohn Italian recorded in June 1955, originally issued on LP coupled with Beinum's Brahms Third. The conductor's only other Mendelssohn recorded with the Concertgebouw is music from A Midsummer Night's Dream (Overture, Nocturne, Scherzo) which he recorded for Decca first in September 1946 issued on 78s, then in May 1952 issued on LP, although in 1949 with the London Philharmonic he recorded for Decca Fingal's Cave and the Violin Concerto with Alfredo Campoli. The Italian is a mono recording; the following week Beinum taped his magnificent interpretation of Bruckner's Eighth Symphony, also mono - the first "official" Philips stereo Concertgebouw recording was made in May 1957 when Beinum recorded Debussy (La Mer, Nocturnes, Berceuse héroďque and Marche écossaise). The latter has been issued previously on CD, part of a budget-priced Philips twin-disk set of Debussy played by the Concertgebouw Orchestra with Bernard Haitink (438 742)(REVIEW). Now we have other early stereo recordings: Finlandia and Valse triste of Sibelius recorded in June 1957 and exquisite performances of the two Grieg Elegaic Melodies recorded in May 1958. The Thomas and Nicolai overtures, mono recordings, were made April 10, 1956, Roman Carnival September 1956. The Concertgebouw made its first recording of the latter in 1937 for Telefunken with Willem Mengelberg conducting, the next was for Decca in September 1951 with van Beinum and five years later the same conductor made this Philips recording. The music is a specialty of Beinum; in addition to programming it often in Amsterdam, when he appeared as guest conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra (the only time) in January 1954, his first concerts featured Haydn's Symphony No. 96 and Bruckner's Seventh; the following week's concerts (one of which I attended), opened with Roman Carnival continuing with Debussy's Faun, continued with the U.S. premiere of Andriessen's Ricercare, and ended with Symphonie fantastique).
On this SD CD only Bercéuse heroďque, has been issued previously on CD, part of a budget-priced Philips twin-disk set of Debussy played by the Concertgebouw Orchestra with Bernard Haitink (438 742)(REVIEW). Now we have other stereo recordings in their welcome first CD issues: Finlandia and Valse triste of Sibelius recorded in June 1957 and exquisite performances of the two Grieg Elegaic Melodies recorded in May 1958.
This is a CD essential in any Van Beinum collection - let us hope other treasures from the same Philips 8-LP set will be issued including Bartók's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, Kodály's Háry János Suite, Stravinsky's Firebird Suite and Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade - and Beinum's rousing Stars and Stripes Forever, available now only on a hard-to-find Philips Dutch Masters CD (462 105). (This CD is called Meesterstemmen and includes brief excerpts from recordings by a dozen artists who recorded for Philips).
All collectors will also welcome this fine transfer from a pristine set of British LPs of Antal Dorati's famed mid-'50s Mercury monophonic recording of the complete Sleeping Beauty. With today's sad state of the classical record industry, it is unlikely Polygram will issue this stunning performance mastered from the original tapes. This issue solves the problem in fine fashion, with some careful equalization to tame a bit of the overly-bright Mercury sound of the era. Both CDs are filled to near-maximum and there are 23 tracks on the first, 15 on the second. More than two decades after making this recording, Dorati, over a three-year period (1979/80/81) recorded Sleeping Beauty with the Concertgebouw, first issued in a 3-CD set (420 792), now in a budget 2-CD set (446 177) made possible by omitting about five minutes of music (see REVIEW). Fine though it is, the Concertgebouw recording doesn't quite have the demonic drive of the earlier one although of course it has the advantage of fine stereo. Lovers of this ballet masterpiece surely will wish to have both, particularly at these low prices.
Again we are indebted to Sound Dynamics for an important job well done. Program notes? There aren't any, nor a listing of the separate tracks for Sleeping Beauty which surely would have been helpful. These CDs are available only from SOUND DYNAMICS.
R.E.B. (November 2002)