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A Historic Post-War Gem from the LPO

22 November 2017

London Philharmonic Orchestra, Eduard van Beinum, Malcolm Arnold, LPO, Gustav Mahler, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, Edward Elgar

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In 2006, the London Philharmonic Orchestra released an album of performances conducted by the Dutch conductor Eduard van Beinum, the Principal Conductor of the LPO in the late 1940s. Before his appointment, however, he had already conducted the LPO in both concerts and in the recording studio. Van Beinum also enjoyed a long relationship with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, initially as second conductor to Willem Mengelberg, before being appointed co-principal conductor and eventually sole principal conductor.

Van Beinum was known primarily for his interpretations of a wide range of music, from Haydn, Mozart and Schubert to Beethoven, Brahms and Mahler. He was also successful with composers ranging from Bruckner to Sibelius and Bartók to the music of the French composers such as Debussy and Ravel. Furthermore, he championed many contemporary works, including Malcom Arnold’s Beckus the Dandipratt.

Malcom Arnold was not only a fantastic composer, but the principal trumpet player of the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the time. It must have been quite an honour for him to have his own orchestra perform and record the premiere of his work. This was also the first ever recording of Arnold’s music and was used for years by Decca as a demo disc. The close proximity of composer and conductor ensures that this is an authentic performance, with the composer playing a role in the orchestra.

After making some recordings in London with Decca in 1946 with players from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, he was invited to return to London to conduct the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Other guest conductors at the time included Wilhelm Furtwängler, Victor de Sabata, Charles Münch, Erich Leinsdorf, Clemens Krauss, Erich Kleiber, Georg Szell and Carl Schuricht.

His first recordings took place that same year and included not only Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 and Haydn’s Military Symphonies, but also Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer, which are featured on this album. They are sung wonderfully, even by today’s standards, by mezzo-soprano Eugenia Zareska.Of his recordings of Brahms’ music, the Variations on a theme by Haydn appears on this album. This performance displays van Beinum’s fascination and appreciation for Brahms’ music along with that of Beethoven and Elgar.

He gave a number of performances of Elgar’s music, including of Cockaigne, the Cello Concerto and also The Wand of Youth. Also appearing on this programme is the Beethoven Leonore Overture No. 1, which was performed quite seldom at the time.

The sound quality is quite good considering that these recordings are from the 1940s; and while the sound quality is not up to today’s standards, the performances are exquisite and give us a unique glimpse into the rich history of the London Philharmonic Orchestra.


Melanie Garrett

Rating:
Performance: 3.5
Sound: 1.5

LPO, Eduard van Beinum (conductor) Eugenia Zareska (mezzo-soprano)
Arnold: Beckus the Dandipratt
Mahler: Songs of a Wayfarer
Beethoven: Overture, Leonore No. 1
Brahms: Variations on a theme by Haydn
Elgar: The wand of Youth, Suite No. 2


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