Van Beinum, Part 5. Polydor & Decca 78s. Bizet, Reger, Elgar

With this post, I’ve temporarily exhausted the supply of van Beinum 78s at my disposal. I’m still hunting for a few items, so hopefully I’ll have something new in the summer months. Meanwhile, the Bizet recording has not been reissued in any modern format that I know of. The Reger has been issued my Music and Arts in a 4 cd set which also includes Reger’s Ballet Suite, recorded at the same 1943 session. I usually try not to step on the toes of available issues, so sorry my apologies to Music and Arts!

The LPO recording of Elgar’s Cockagine has also been reissued by Beulah (OOP now, but not too hard to find) and EMI (in their Great Conductors of the 20th Century series, an issue with several previously unissued live Van Beinum performances, well worth obtaining). However, those issues seem to be from the tapes prepared by Decca for their first lp issue, and I was curious to hear how the original 78 rpm pressings compared sonically. The trade off of slightly more noise on the shellac version is worth dealing with in my opinion: the sound has far more warmth, depth and dynamic range compared to the rather fierce, distorted tapes used for those cd issues. Also, there is a poor edit which must originate from the time of Decca’s original transfer to tape: at the 7:37 mark, when the horn enters, they should have overlapped so as to include the last lower string note on the downbeat (at fig. 23 in the score). So, unless the Decca still has the individual tape segments prepared for the 78 rpm release they won’t be able to fix this small error, which I have been able to rectify in my transfer. And what a performance of the Elgar this is! Perhaps a bit of “oomph” is missing in the final paragraph (the organ is only faintly audible, compared to the wonderful impact it has in the first electrical recording, the 1926 Elgar-led version), but that’s about the only thrill missing from van Beinum’s reading, which has the requisite gusto, but tremendous delicacy, warmth and flexibility as well.

Bizet: L’Arlésienne Suite No. 1 &
Farandole from Suite No. 2

Polydor 68183/5 (matr. 2511/6 GE)

Recorded September 20-23, 1943

Reger: Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Mozart, Op. 132
Polydor 69192/96 (matr. 2369/78 GE 5)

Recorded May 17-21, 1943

Elgar: Cockaigne (In London Town) Overture, Op. 40
Decca AX 296/97 (matr. AR 13587/90)
Recorded May 13, 1949

Eduard van Beinum, Conductor
Concertgebouworkest, Amsterdam (Bizet, Reger)
London Philharmonic Orchestra (Elgar)


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