Eduard van Beinum Conducts HAYDN: Symphony No. 96 in D Major “Miracle”; BRAHMS: Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90; RAVEL: Rapsodie Espagnole; TCHAIKOVSKY: Andante cantabile from String Quartet No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11 – Concertgebouw Orch. of Amsterdam/ London Philharmonic Orchestra (Brahms)/ Eduard van Beinum – Dutton CDBP 9812, 75:13 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
Eduard van Beinum (1901-1959) matured under the aegis of his predecessor in Amsterdam, Willem Mengelberg, but Beinum’s approach to the conductor’s role differed radically from Mengelberg’s flamboyant virtuosity. More the literalist, infinitely less grandiose, Beinum favored a notion of collegial collaboration with his players, ever insistent on the precise craftsmanship of execution. A stylistic cleanliness prevails, but its innate musicality eschews the merely academic or pedestrian epithets. We feel an interpretive transparency of that musician who places the text well above his own idiosyncratic vision.
The Haydn “Miracle” Symphony (21 September 1947) falls into that brief period when Beinum could alternate his venues between Amsterdam and London, before chronic health issues curtailed much of his itinerant energies. Spirited playing marks every turn of the Haydn (1791) opus, but especially in the Menuetto and Trio, in which the oboe enjoys an extensive part. Beinum achieves a fine interplay between his string, woodwind, and tympani sections, the result aerial and athletic at once. The 2/4 Vivace finale flirts with an edgy propulsion that quite balances a dainty filigree against a muscular, highly volatile series of rocket figures. Crisp articulation in flute, bassoon, and strings convinces us that the Concertgebouw could execute any musical challenge with smiling panache.
Virility, warmth, and sinewy passion mark the inscription of the Brahms F Major Symphony (20-23 March 1946) with the London Philharmonic. Beinum had a great sympathy for Brahms, and collectors would do well to seek out his renditions of the symphonies and the Violin Concerto with Belgian master Arthur Grumiaux. Beinum does not take the first movement repeat, but he infuses the Allegro con brio with girth, menace, and yearning as it vacillates between major and minor, wringing our hearts with its F-A-F and F-A-E anagrams of the composer’s essentially lonely persona. The bucolic episodes, tendered by winds and low strings, enjoy the clear definition of Beinum’s dependable precision. The composer’s rhetorical fervor and passionate sweep consistently find a reverent master in Beinum. My personal favorite movement, the lovely C Major Andante, welds each songlike episode in unbroken, brisk harmony, often achieving a misty nostalgia quite in keeping with the music’s yearning sensibility. The C Minor Poco allegretto exerts its own mystique, and director Vincente Minnelli recognized its haunting appeal for his film noir Undercurrent (1946). The F Minor opening of the final Allegro exerts a terrific menace and incisive accents, martially poignant, and not particularly indicative of the symphony’s sunnier F Major ending. Excellent trumpet work from the LPO. The rather overt references to both Schumann and Beethoven do not dilute the impact of an immensely satisfying reading.
Ravel’s Rapsodie Espagnole (10 September 1948) extends Beinum’s command of orchestral colors, here merged with a sensual exoticism. The Malaguena and Habanera though brief shimmer with eros. While “trespassing” on territory well occupied by Charles Munch, Paul Paray, Fritz Reiner, and Sergiu Celibidache, Beinum proves himself a master artist of the nationalist or impressionist brush-stroke. The clarity of detail in the concluding Feria fuses laughing energy with high orchestral gloss in whirling panoply, the triple-tonguing in the brass sufficient warrant for a decisive Hats Off!
New to my own Beinum catalogue comes the delicate Andante cantabile (22 September 1947) arranged from Peter Tchaikovsky’s first string quartet. A pity Beinum did not record the Op. 48 String Serenade, since the unblemished intimacy of this fine moment of chamber ensemble places the Concertgebouw’s string section in the Parthenon of such renditions.
Brahms Violin Concerto; Schumann Symphony No. 2 – Henryk Szeryng, Carl Schuricht – Forgotten Records
Two stellar, musical personalities in live concert