HAYDN: Symphony No. 104 in D Major “London;” SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 82; SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 9 in C Major, D. 944 “Great” – Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam/Paul van Kempen – TAHRA

by | Sep 20, 2005 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

HAYDN: Symphony No. 104 in D Major “London;”  SIBELIUS:
Symphony No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 82;  SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 9
in C Major, D. 944 “Great” – Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam/Paul
van Kempen

TAHRA 514 mono 55:49; 52:16  (Distrib. Harmonia Mundi)****:

Taken from sessions recorded May 23 and 29, 1943, Volume 2 of the Paul
van Kempen (1893-1955) Edition, this 2-dsic set from TAHRA restores
several poised and lyrical performances from Polydor 78s which deserve
dissemination among collectors. Considering the aggressive, flamboyant
orchestral style imbued into the Amsterdam Concertgebouw under its
permanent conductor Mengelberg, it is remarkable to find in these
inscriptions a much softer, liquid, and intimate sound which Kempen
cultivates with a poignant sense of color.

The Schubert Ninth makes a fine case in point: eschewing the colossal,
heroic ethos, Kempen opts for an implosive grandeur, where we
consistently savor the interplay of winds, strings, and even trumpets,
but without any neurotic heaven-storming. The fortes are not weak, but
they are carefully modulated bursts of energy whose disturbing
character increases the dramatic tension with emotional distortion.
When the soft, lyrical passages return, Kempen achieves an awesome
serenity of motion, a pantheistic conversation with eternity. Despite
some remaining hiss and crackle in the old shellacs, the music proceeds
with uncommon vigor and plasticity, including good attention to wind
and battery details.

An active champion of Sibelius, Kempen takes the E-flat Symphony for a
muscular, graduated tour of Northern sensibilities, perhaps not so
elastic as Celibidache’s visions, but not so far away either.  The
rigorous, classical arches Kempen imposes makes we wonder how much he
and Monteux may have influenced one another. I would be eager to hear a
restoration of the Sibelius 7th Kempen recorded for Telefunken 11 May
1950.  The Haydn D Major Symphony is every bit as convincing as my
preferred rendition by Rosbaud, enjoying the requisite combination of
nobility, swagger, and joie de vivre in due proportion. The Finale,
marked spiritoso, urges our musical ears and blood platelets forward
with a happy inevitability which makes us wish Haydn had been more of a
major figure in Kempen’s discography.  TAHRA furnishes in all
three volumes of the Kempen Edition a discography and recorded live
performance catalogue compiled by Mike Gray covering the years
1929-1955.

–Gary Lemco

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