MAHLER: Symphony No 4; Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen – Margaret Ritchie (soprano), Eugenia Zareska (mezzo-soprano) / Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam / London Philharmonic Orchestra / Eduard van Beinum – Beulah

by | Feb 15, 2010 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

MAHLER: Symphony No 4; Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen –  Margaret Ritchie (soprano), Eugenia Zareska (mezzo-soprano) / Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam  / London Philharmonic Orchestra / Eduard van Beinum –  Beulah mono 2PD17 [www.eavb.co.uk/"www.eavb.co.uk] ****:

Here we have another fine restoration of one rarity and one star in Decca’s post-war catalogue. Eugenia Zareska’s fine rendition of Mahler’s song cycle opens the programme and was, curiously, never issued on LP, and only belatedly has made an appearance on a Symposium CD. Her career included a stint in Rome in the early 1940s and, after the war, a good deal of success in Paris and London. She sings Mahler’s sparely orchestrated songs with touching innocence, and the London Philharmonic under their chief conductor at the time, Eduard van Beinum, are entirely sympathetic. Recorded in Kingsway Hall in late 1947 the sound is full and dynamic, capturing the voice very well.

Van Beinum did much to raise the post-war standard of the LPO encouraging a good deal of fine playing from the members, evident from the many recordings he made with them for Decca. Sadly, he had to relinquish the position due to ill-health and concentrate his energy on the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam where he made, in 1952, this justly famous recording of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony. Margaret Ritchie was a fine soprano and she had the measure of what Mahler intended in the last movement. There are a few recordings of this symphony which I find as satisfying as this one, notably Ivan Fischer’s recent one on Channel Classics, but Van Beinum’s clear sense of direction still reels one in after all these years.

John Culshaw and Kenneth Wilkinson were responsible for setting this recording down, one which impressed many audiophiles in the pre-stereo era. Listening through a single speaker, Beulah says, allows one to savour the sound and balance as heard by the engineers at the time, and it certainly sounds very fine auditioned that way. But sound via a stereo pair is also very satisfactory.

— Peter Joelson

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