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Eduard Van Beinum

Ravel, Franck: Orchestral Works (CD)

A Franck rarity coupled with a trio of Ravel masterpieces: a valuable addition to the Eloquence series of newly remastered reissues devoted to Eduard van Beinum.
Although the Dutch conductor was renowned as an exponent of Austro-German composers from Mozart to Mahler, Van Beinum was master of a wide palette of orchestral timbre which made him an ideal interpreter of French repertoire, and a worthy successor to Willem Mengelberg as music director of the Concertgebouw Orchestra: a post he held from 1945 until his early death 14 years later. Previous Eloquence compilations of Van Beinum’s Berlioz (4825569) and Debussy (4646362) are distinguished by their refined, idiomatic sound, which fits the music like a glove.

Composed by César Franck around the same time as his more frequently heard Symphony, Psyché is an extended tone-poem, not dissimilar in mood to the Daphnis et Chloé ballet of Ravel and also requiring a chorus in its complete form. Like most performances, this 1953 Philips recording omits the passages with chorus to make a 20-minute suite, satisfying on its own terms, and played with notable sensitivity by the Concertgebouw.Coupled on its first release with (of all things) the Seventh Symphony of Bruckner, Psyché is joined here by Franck’s ever-popular concertante work for piano, the Symphonic Variations, in a 1943 Telefunken recording with Geza Anda as soloist and originally issued by Deutsche Grammophon.

One of the first post-war recordings made by Decca in the Concertgebouw is still a highlight of Van Beinum’s discography: Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole. Thanks to the conductor’s feeling for colour and fine sense of timing, this remains a flawless interpretation: no wonder that in May 1950 Gramophone described this recording, issued on two 78s, as an ‘outstanding issue’. Twelve years after the Rapsodie espagnole the only other recordings of orchestral works by Ravel made under Van Beinum were of Boléro and La valse, first issued by Philips on a 10” LP and now available again in a brand-new digital remastering.

1–4 Psyché
5 Variations symphoniques

6–9 Rapsodie espagnole*
10 Boléro*
11 La Valse*
Géza Anda, piano (Variations Symphoniques)
Eduard van Beinum