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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Mengelberg's Old-school Beethoven

Wilhelm Mengelberg
As we continue to suffer through the heat I've been keeping cool with the help of my freshly loaded all-classical IPod. Recent listening has included Willem Mengelberg's superb recordings of the Beethoven symphonies and orchestral works.

This is a five-CD set of performances recorded live in in monaural sound, recorded live. Although this set is not currently in the Philips catalogue, it was released as an historic recording on the Philips "Original Masters" series which highlights famous performances from the Netherlands.

The conductor's brisk tempi and swooping lyric passages offer a glimpse back into an earlier tyle of conducting, Mengelberg's conducting is of another age, with a steady beat and a freewheeling style that recals Wihem Furtwängler. The Seventh and the "Eroica" are sublime, the Fifth is a worthy textbook for any young conductor.

Unfortunately for his conducting career, Mengelberg made these recordings during the Nazi occupation of Holland. After the war, the conductor was accused of collaborating with the Germans, and left Holland for Swiss exile where he died in 1951. He made no more recordings after 1945, but the ones he left behind, particularly the Beethoven cycle, are most illuminating to listen to.

Other current favorites include Maria Joao Pires' Mozart cycle on DGG, some nice Montreal Debussy under CHarles Dutoit, the famous La Scala Simon Boccanegra woith Claudio Abbado on the m podium, and the mono Beethoven cycle with Wilhelm Kempff at the piano. Like the aforementioned Mengelberg set, these Kempff CDs are out of print, but worth owning if you can find or download a copy.

In other news, the Mackerras Danae is now loaded, even though I had to type in all the trck titles myself. Seems CDDB doesn't know everthing...

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats