Beethoven, Haydn & Brahms: Orchestral Works (2CD)

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London Philharmonic Orchestra, Concertgebouworkest, Eduard van Beinum

A newly remastered collection of Decca and Philips recordings made by the under-rated Dutch conductor in Austro- German classics including a little-known account of Beethoven’s Prometheus Overture. The ballet music which Beethoven wrote to complement his overture was as little-heard in 1952 as it is now. Eduard van Beinum recorded eight numbers from the complete score, evidently enjoying the lighter side of the composer, as part of a growing and successful relationship with the London Philharmonic Orchestra now documented on Eloquence and complementing the work he did with his band ‘at home’, the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam.

As Niek Nelissen’s documentary essay details in the booklet, the LPO musicians were as keenly appreciative of Van Beinum’s unfussily musical good sense as many listeners at home; they noted how he achieved orchestral discipline without resorting to the tactics of contemporary tyrants of the podium and encouraged a natural fluency of phrasing. Under him the overtures Egmont, Coriolan, Consecration of the House, Prometheus, Fidelio and Leonore III do not sound like some lesser form of symphonic music, but the exciting curtain-raisers Beethoven intended them to be and which put the listener in the mood for a dramatic story. These 1949–52 recordings are complemented by a previous Prometheus Overture set down in Kingsway Hall in November 1946, in the same sessions as an ‘alert and biting statement’ (High Fidelity, November 1952) of the ‘Military’ Symphony by Haydn.

This collection ends with the work that Van Beinum put on record more often than any other composition: the Haydn Variations of Brahms. This is the third of his four studio recordings, made with the Concertgebouw in 1952.

‘Van Beinum and the Amsterdam orchestra give a beautifully sensitive performance throughout, considerably more alive than that of Furtwängler.’ Gramophone, May 1953 (Haydn Variations)

‘Van Beinum makes more of the music, gives a more confident and broad-based performance … The recording is excellent throughout ... detailed comparison shows that in almost every case the London players are superior.’ Gramophone, November 1952 (Prometheus ballet)

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1. Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus, Op. 43 (1946 RECORDING)                 

2. Leonore No. 1, Op. 138                  

3. Leonore No. 3, Op. 72b                 

4. Fidelio, Op. 72c                 

5. Egmont, Op. 84                 

6. Coriolan, Op. 62                 

7. Die Weihe des Hauses, Op. 124                 


Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus, Op. 43: Overture and Incidental Music



Symphony No. 100 in G major, ‘Military’ H.I:100*



Variations on a Theme by Haydn (St. Antoni’s Chorale), Op. 56a


London Philharmonic Orchestra (Beethoven, Haydn)
Concertgebouworkest (Brahms)
Eduard van Beinum


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Eloquence mines the archives to unearth committed performances



The name of the Dutch conductorEduard van Beinum will be familiar to anyone who, like me, began collecting LP records with the cheap Decca Ace of Clubs label. In an age of fearsome podium monsters like Rodzinski and Reiner, van Beinum was the opposite: a collegiate musician who treated his orchestral players as human beings and gained respect through his musical authority (just as Giulini and Abbado would after him). He made many recordings with the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, of which he became chief conductor, and the London Philharmonic, before his sudden death in 1959 aged 57.

These recordings with the LPO were made between 1947 and 1950, when the orchestra had only recently parted ways with their founder Sir Thomas Beecham. Musically, they were clearly in great shape: listen to the vigour and point in the string and woodwind playing in the 1947 Prometheus Overtureof Beethoven. There is nothing stodgy or musty about it. Later sessions give us the full incidental music from Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus(including the overture again), and a selection of overtures including Leonora 12EgmontCoriolanand Fidelio. The performances teem with life. While van Beinum avoided the symphonies he clearly relished Beethoven's lighter works.

Haydn, always a Beecham specialty, would have been familiar fare for the London players, and they make the most of the "Military" Symphony, No. 100, which van Beinum approaches with an appropriately light touch for the time. (Haydn is played in a more crisp, detached manner today.) Finally, with the Concertgebouw, comes one of the conductor's signature pieces, the BrahmsHaydn Variations––his third and last recording of it, from 1958. While the sound is mostly mono, and pretty dull in two of the overtures, this is compelling music-making overall.