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CD & Download: Pristine Audio

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770 - 1827)
Symphony No. 4 in B Flat, Op. 60 (1806) [36:57]
Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op.67 (1807) [31:24]
Concertgebouw Orchestra/Willem Mengelberg
rec. live, Concertgebouw, 1940

CD & Download: Pristine Audio

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770 - 1827)
Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op.36 (1801) [36:55]
Symphony No. 8 in F, Op.93 (1812)[27:58]
Fidelio; overture Op.72c [6:17]
Concertgebouw Orchestra/Willem Mengelberg
rec. live, Concertgebouw, 1940

CD & Download: Pristine Audio

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770 - 1827)
Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op.21 (1800) [25:45]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Symphony No.1 in C minor, Op.68 (1876) [47:40]
Concertgebouw Orchestra/Willem Mengelberg
rec. live, Concertgebouw, 1940
Experience Classicsonline

Mengelberg's live Beethoven cycle of 1940 has been reissued a number of times over the years, principally by Lys, Music & Arts and Philips. The novelty here lies in the new restoration by Pristine Audio, which has issued the entire set, and of which I have three discs to review - one of them includes the Brahms First Symphony.
These are incandescent performances, wilful, full of agogic distortions, rhetorical in places, replete with rhythmic licence and personalised to the point, sometimes, almost of caricature. Yet they are also leonine in their way, often overwhelming, and carrying conviction even when at their most rhythmically problematic.
The opening of the Fourth has a small amount of distortion but it passes quickly and becomes nicely clarified. This is one of the most successful of the performances, though even here subject to certain outsize gestures. Those famous Mengelbergian baton raps announce the Fifth, an adamantine affair, with rhythmic latitude and a theatrical sense of projection. The Concertgebouw cellos and basses are powerfully present in the balance, and though the phrasing is always unsettled, and there is constant metrical elasticity, the performance achieves its own sense of outsize monumentality. The Second Symphony is another big affair - one senses that Mengelberg never lets up in the canon, never sees any of the even numbered or early symphonies as deserving of less pressing treatment. And the Eighth is similarly treated, though along with the Fourth it's also one of the most successful. There’s a full complement of brio and even if the horns get a little ragged later on, they characterise with charm. The Fidelio overture in this disc is trenchant and forceful.
There's a live 1943 account of the Brahms symphony and it's not dissimilar to this 1940 traversal. The late romantic ritardandi are part of a complex series of outsize expressive gestures and are maximal here, the ebbing and flowing of the line and its constant fluctuation subject to a martinet personality with a rapturous sense of line and length.  
These performances, as I noted, are all very well known. Pristine Audio’s restorations sound pretty good to me, boosting definition, mitigating degradation.
Jonathan Woolf 
















































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