Throughout his distinguished career, Van Beinum recorded a fair share of works, but where Beethoven is concerned his studio legacy is very thin. In fact, his only commercial recording of a Beethoven symphony is that of the Second, so this live concert taped at the Royal Festival Hall on 10th November 1958 is welcome indeed. When one considers that Van Beinum had been having heart problems for some time, the performances we have here are to say the least, astounding. Full of vitality and expressive intensity they are able to grip the listener in their relentless momentum and keep him/her captivated from beginning to end.
I must say that I was very much taken in by the two outer movements of both symphonies; they are so full of passionate joy and contentment that one hardly notices that the disc is nearly 75 minutes long. Van Beinum proves to be a fine master in the way he shaped these interpretations, giving them naturalness which is so vital in such romantic works as these symphonies. The maestro also manages admirably to bring out all the poetry and humour of the middle movements, giving an all round balance to these effervescent and universal compositions.
Unfortunately, soon after this concert, Van Beinum suffered a fatal heart attack while rehearsing Brahms' First Symphony. The sound quality of this disc is rather dry and restricted, but the sheer brilliance of the music more than makes up for this minor bleep. Walter Legge's orchestra, the Philharmonia play with a versatility that befits both composer and conductor and the annotations by Alan Sanders make very interesting reading, and, to my mind they are one of the treasures of this issue. If you want to discover some very curious facts about Otto Klemperer, Eduard Van Beinum, Walter Legge and the Philharmonia, then get stuck in. Happy reading and listening.
Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech