BRAHMS:  Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 73 (rec. April 4, 1940).  Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98 (rec. Nov. 30, 1938).
Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orch/Willem Mengelberg, cond.
NAXOS 8.110158 (B) (ADD) TT:  77:38
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WEBER:  Der Freischutz Overture (rec. June 1, 1931).  Euryanthe Overture (rec. June 1, 1931).  Oberon Overture (rec. May 12, 1928).  MENDELSSOHN:  Scherzo from A Midsummer Night's Dream (rec. May 12, 1928).  BERLIOZ:  Roman Carnival Overture (rec. Dec. 21, 1937).  Three Excerpts from The Damnation of Faust (rec. April 16, 1942).  LISZT:  Les PrČludes (rec. June, 1929).
Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orch/Willem Mengelberg, cond.
NAXOS 8.110853 (B) (ADD) TT:  66:43
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All of these important recordings have already been issued on CD. The two Brahms symphonies were first issued on Teldec in 1988 in poor transfers, then in 1999 on Biddulph (WHL 057) in fine restorations by Mark Obert-Thorn. O-T also previously made transfers of the Columbia recordings of theWeber, Mendelssohn, Liszt listed above, all included in Volume I in the Pearl series of Mengelberg/Concertgebouw Columbia recordings (GEMM CDS 9018).  He also remastered the Telefunken Berlioz recordings issued on Biddulph (WHL 023) in 1994. The Damnation excerpts also are available in a transfer by Seth B. Winner Sound Studios issued on Pearl (GEMM CD  9154).

Obert-Thorn's new transfers are, as usual, first-rate; in a commentary he explains difficulty in obtaining appropriate disks and working with them—including dealing with hum that, in some instances, was part of the original recordings. The result is superb; as one who once owned some of these 78s, I can guarantee they never sounded as good as this.Performances are masterful, particularly the three Weber overtures. If you have the opportunity, watch the Mengelberg performance of Oberon on the DVD included in Radio Nederland's Mengelberg 10-CD set (REVIEW). This apparently was filmed in France in 1931, three years after the recording on the new Naxos issue. Mengelberg's interpretations are typical of the famed conductor.  Les PrČludes represents the best—and to some—the worst in Mengelberg's interpretive ideas. There is no other performance like it. The Mendelssohn Scherzo is a rather unsettled, nervous performance fascinating in its own way.

Ward Marston did the new transfers for the two Brahms symphonies—as usual his work is magnificent.  How fortunate we are in the historic reissue realm to have experts of this caliber. It's interesting that O-T's transfers of the Brahms symphonies are very slightly longer than Marstons (i.e. the first movement of  No. 2 is 13:10 compared with Marston's 13:02—and each of the other movements is comparatively longer)—not that it really makes any difference; surely not to me.  If you don't already own the Biddulph CD, surely the budget Naxos issue is the one to get, primarily for financial reasons. Marston's comments about the recordings are revealing. There is no question that the Telefunken engineers used different microphone setups for each symphony—just listen to the very prominent brass in Symphony No. 2, and balances of strings and winds vary somewhat throughout the performances..

Both CDs are highly recommended.  Again, thank you Naxos for providing the best, and at budget price.

R.E.B.  (August 2002)