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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Symphony No. 3 in D Major, D200 (1815) [20:37]
Symphony No. 4 in C Minor, D417 “Tragic” (1816) [28:32]
Symphony No. 5 in B Flat Major, D485 (1816) [24:06]
Symphony No. 6 in C Major, D859 (1818) [28:56]
Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, D759 “Unfinished” (1822) [24:34]
Rosamunde, incidental music (excerpts), D797 [22:48]
Concertgebouw Orchestra/Eduard van Beinum
rec. 1946-57, Grote Zaal, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam
ELOQUENCE 482 5521 [75:42 + 74:26]

Though he never recorded a symphonic cycle, Eduard van Beinum set down a sequence of Schubert symphonies during the years of his contracts with Decca and Philips from 1946-57. This twofer contains all-mono traversals of Nos. 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 starting with the 78rpm set of the fifth.

The Third Symphony was recorded by Philips in 1955 and includes the exposition repeat in the first movement, in a well-paced satisfying reading with the famed Concertgebouw winds to the fore in the Allegretto, witty and pointing in the Menuetto. Beinum’s way with Schubert tended to be quite pacey though never sleek and the finale here is a case in point – aerial without stinting detail. Beinum didn’t test-run the Fourth for the recording in December 1952. In fact, it wasn’t a symphony he much performed. He jettisons the repeats in the outer movements but there is a pleasingly genial spirit at work, not least from the rustic winds in the Menuetto.

One of Decca’s earliest recordings in the Concertgebouw after the war managed to capture the Fifth Symphony. Possibly for space saving reasons on the 78s – though this doesn’t seem to have been a consideration on the later LP recordings – neither of the outer movements preserve the repeats. Critical judgement of this recording has varied over the years, from those who find it refreshingly bracing to those who find it simply too fast. Certainly, for the time it would have been judged nippy. I find a certain cursory quality in the first movement, but the finale is genially done. The Sixth similarly divides opinion, as to whether it is free or rather dogged. Again, the winds are full of personalisation and the strings elegant and refined, as one would expect of so splendid an ensemble. This was one of van Beinum’s favourite works and he’d been directed to it as early as 1937, at a time when the Concertgebouw under Mengelberg had never played it. Indeed, during the last half-decade of his life, Niek Nelissen points out in his fine notes, Beinum conducted Schubert’s Third and Sixth more often than any Beethoven symphony.

The Sixth was coupled on LP with the Unfinished, released by Philips (Epic) in 1958, but still in mono. The Unfinished receives a probing, unselfconscious reading, neither Olympian in stature nor superficial. It seems to conform to much of Beinum’s Schubert, which emerges as more effective, assured and conscientious than truly inspired. The standard Rosamunde extracts - the Overture, Entr’acte No.1 and Ballet Music No.1 - are played with lyrical warmth and make a fine addition to this twofer. Repeats are largely jettisoned, the performance fitting neatly onto a 10” disc.

This twofer forms part of a welcome reissue package on this label and it’s been well programmed and transferred.

Jonathan Woolf


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