Notes and Editorial Reviews
Francesca da Rimini.
Romeo and Juliet.
Eduard van Beinum, cond;
DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 4849, mono,
The back cover proclaims “first international release on CD” status for all four performances, and they’re all new to me. The Collins items are particularly welcome, in further expanding our knowledge of this 1950s Decca house conductor, still best remembered for his vital Sibelius cycle with the London Symphony. The long neglect of these 1956 sessions may be explained by their mono sound, though their amplitude and presence is such that I don’t miss stereo at all.
is brisk, taut, and vividly colorful, with a light touch betraying Collins’s wartime experience in Hollywood’s film studios.
Francesca da Rimini
is hard-driven, with astute rhythmic pointing, stinging accents, and an exciting sense of all-out involvement from the LSO, which in 1956 had a lean, stripped-down sound, with astringent strings, cutting woodwinds, and punchy brass. The central love music is persuasively shaped, with characterful wind solos (starting with the young Jack Brymer on clarinet, by the sound of things). This is every bit the equal of contemporary classic accounts by Doráti (Minneapolis Symphony/Mercury, 1958) and Markevitch (Lamoureux Orchestra/DG, 1959), and preferable to the charismatic but coarse-cut Munch (Boston Symphony/RCA, 1956).
Van Beinum’s London
Romeo and Juliet
(Decca, 1950) immediately commands our attention in its exceptionally brisk, sharply delineated introduction—indeed, perhaps the fastest I have ever heard, reaching the
in 4:30. (Rodzinski, in his 1940 Cleveland recording, comes close at 4:35; interestingly, van Beinum himself, in a live 1940 performance with the Concertgebouw [Andante], is much slower, at 5:15.) The
too is a one-off: clipped, ascetic, with an almost neoclassical feel. The love theme, prepared by acidic woodwinds (bars 146 ff.), is dry-eyed and incisive, with horn accents (bars 213 ff.) punched home, yet is also highly effective in its sweeping phrasing. Altogether this is one of the most fascinatingly original
I have ever heard. The recording is vivid and well detailed, though tuttis have that fizzy, papery edge typical of Decca’s early postwar “ffrr” sound.
suite was taped by Philips in 1958. Here the early stereo sounds rather diffuse and wooly by the side of Decca’s high-impact mono. But the performance is a joy in its refinement, spirit, and rhythmic élan, constantly illuminated by that rich, burnished Concertgebouw sound in all sections of the orchestra.
Altogether an exceedingly attractive proposition. Good notes, too, from fellow
scribe Raymond Tuttle. Those with an interest in vintage Tchaikovsky from the 1950s should snap it up while they can.
FANFARE: Boyd Pomeroy