MENGELBERG The Complete Columbia Concertgebouw Recordings (1926-32) - PABX032

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MENGELBERG The Complete Columbia Concertgebouw Recordings (1926-32) - PABX032

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Overview

TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 4 in F minor
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 5 in E minor
TCHAIKOVSKY Romeo and Juliet – Fantasy Overture
TCHAIKOVSKY Waltz from Serenade for Strings
J S BACH Suite No. 2 for Flutes and Strings

J C BACH Sinfonia in B flat
BEETHOVEN Leonore Overtures 1 & 3, Coriolan Overture et al
WEBER Der Freischütz, Euryanthe, Oberon - Overtures
LISZT Les Préludes
WAGNER
Tannhäuser Overture - Lohengrin Prelude

BRAHMS Symphony No. 3 - Academic Festival Overture
GRIEG Two Elegiac Melodies
RAVEL Boléro
J STRAUSS II Perpetuum Mobile
music by Cheubini, Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Suppé, Bizet, Mahler, Tchaikovsky

Studio recordings, 1926-32

Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam
conducted by Willem Mengelberg


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This set contains the following albums:

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MENGELBERG conducts Tchaikovsky - The Complete Columbia Recordings (1927-1930) - PASC511

Willem Mengelberg had a long history as a champion of Tchaikovsky going back to some of his earliest appearances as chief conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra in 1895. The rhythmic flexibility, passionate intensity and inexorable forward momentum of his performances were ideally suited to the Russian composer’s works.

Among his earliest acoustic recordings with the New York Philharmonic for Victor were two abridged movements from the Pathétique Symphony, each on a single side, and the Waltz from the Serenade for Strings. With the introduction of electrical recording and the signing of his Dutch orchestra to the Columbia label, however, his recorded Tchaikovsky repertoire expanded significantly.

Mengelberg’s first attempt at recording Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony was in June, 1927, when only the middle two movements were taken down. Although this session was recorded by Columbia, these sides were issued only on French Odeon, and are among Mengelberg’s rarest discs. In December of the same year, Mengelberg recorded the symphony complete with the New York Philharmonic for Brunswick. This set was never released, however, reportedly because it failed the “wear test” with regard to blasting during loud passages, and the masters were destroyed.

Five months later, he recorded the complete performance presented here, which has remained a gramophone classic despite its inherent speed fluctuation problems (definitively fixed here using Capstan pitch stabilisation software). He would go on to re-record the work in 1940 with the Berlin Philharmonic (Pristine PASC 348), and a live broadcast with the Concertgebouw from 1939 has also been released. In all of these, Mengelberg takes two cuts in the finale: a large one in the development section, and a smaller one at the start of the coda. He claimed for these the authority of the composer’s brother, Modest, who had told him that Tchaikovsky himself made these elisions in his later performances of the work in order to tighten the structure of the movement.

In contrast to the many versions of the Fifth, both the Fourth Symphony and Romeo and Juliet only received the single recordings presented here. The Romeo is particularly noteworthy in being one of the few versions from the 78 rpm era to fit on four sides, although it is accompanied by a noticeable tempo acceleration at the start of Side 3. The Waltz from the Serenade for Strings was originally issued as the filler for the Fifth Symphony. Mengelberg and the Concertgebouw would go on to re-record it as part of the complete Serenade for Telefunken in 1938.

The sources for the transfers were U.S. Columbia “Viva-Tonal” label pressings, and French Odeons for the two movements from the Fifth Symphony from 1927.

Mark Obert-Thorn

MENGELBERG Columbia Concertgebouw Recordings, Volume 1 (1926-31) - PASC595

This release, along with the Tchaikovsky recordings previously reissued on Pristine PASC 511 and another volume to follow, will present Willem Mengelberg’s complete recordings with his Concertgebouw Orchestra for the Columbia label. Early versions will be included as well as their remakes, along with alternate takes (one of them in the next volume unpublished on 78 rpm).

Mengelberg’s Columbias are significant in several respects: they include his first recordings with the Concertgebouw, an ensemble whose partnership with the conductor dated back to 1895; they feature the works of some contemporary composers with whom Mengelberg had personal friendships and special insights, such as Mahler in our next volume; and they present some classic interpretations, like Liszt’s Les Préludes, which have never been bettered on disc.

The present volume focuses on works from the Baroque to the early Romantic era. The music of Johann Sebastian Bach was considered a Mengelberg specialty during his career, and he was noted for his annual performances of the St. Matthew Passion in Amsterdam. The conductor’s big-orchestra Romantic era approach would not pass muster today – flute solos are doubled, one commentator has reported hearing an organ in the background, and I’m sure there’s a glockenspiel tinkling away in the Badinerie yet I think we are the poorer for it.

Only two movements of the Sinfonia by Bach’s youngest son were recorded by Columbia, but Mengelberg was able to complete it in a near-contemporaneous recording with his “other” orchestra, the New York Philharmonic (PASC 378), a reading which is surprisingly similar, not only in overall interpretive approach but also in orchestral execution. Mengelberg was an early champion of the works of Cherubini, and his recording of the Anacreon Overture reveals the composer’s influence on Beethoven.

Columbia had already recorded Weingartner in the Beethoven Eighth Symphony earlier in the year (PASC 414), so Mengelberg had to make do with only a single movement as a filler side to the Cherubini. (He was later to record it complete for Telefunken.) It is replete with humorous detail, as well as some inadvertent studio noises. The conductor also brings the grandiose humor of the “Turkish March” to the fore in another recording he was later to remake for Telefunken.

The Beethoven overtures taken down during these sessions are classic readings which belie the caricature of the conductor as “Mangleberg”. Here, there is no self-indulgent phrase-pulling, but rather finely judged rubato and rhetorical emphases. (And here again, as with the J. C. Bach, one can compare the two Concertgebouw versions of the Egmont with a New York recording made between them.)

In the Weber overtures, one can hear Mengelberg’s fusion of forward momentum coupled to a sense of magical wonder. Listen, for example, to the bridge between the boisterous opening of the Euryanthe Overture and the lyrical second subject. Here, unlike many other interpreters, Mengelberg takes an extremely broad tempo accompanied by tender string portamenti. It’s usually a throwaway transitional moment; but Mengelberg elevates it to something sublime.

The Mendelssohn Scherzo appeared in two different takes, the somewhat less tidy earlier one issued only in America. A cut is taken in both for disc timing reasons, although the conductor performed it complete in a 1938 BBC Symphony broadcast (PASC 184). The two Berlioz excerpts were hampered by dim early sound and pitch drift (corrected here), but restoration reveals idiomatic performances. Arguably best of all is Mengelberg’s Liszt, with Les Préludes blazing in a grandeur only one born with a Romantic-era sensibility could truly grasp and convey. (Or, as Humpty Dumpty observed to Alice, “There’s glory for you!”)

Mark Obert-Thorn

MENGELBERG Columbia Concertgebouw Recordings, Volume 2 (1926-32) - PASC616

This release, along with our first volume (Pristine PASC 595) and the Tchaikovsky works featured on PASC 511, present Willem Mengelberg’s complete recordings with his Concertgebouw Orchestra for the Columbia label. Mengelberg’s Columbias are significant in several respects: they include his earliest recordings with the Concertgebouw, an ensemble whose partnership with the conductor dated back to 1895; they feature the works of some contemporary composers with whom Mengelberg had personal friendships and special insights, such as Mahler; and they present some classic interpretations, like Liszt’s Les Préludes in our previous volume, which have never been bettered on disc.

The present collection focuses on works from the Romantic era through the music of the conductor’s contemporaries. Mengelberg only recorded a handful of Wagner orchestral works; yet the Tannhäuser Overture which opens our program stands among the finest ever made. Critic Rob Cowan has written that it “vies with Les Préludes as the perfect show-case for Mengelberg’s striking personality.” Aided by Columbia’s superb engineering in one of his last recordings for the label, Mengelberg achieves in the final pages the same overwhelming sense of glory he evoked in the Liszt tone poem. Hardly less noteworthy is the Lohengrin Prelude, which highlights the string portamenti that were a hallmark of Mengelberg’s interpretations.

Mengelberg only recorded three of the Brahms symphonies – the Second and Fourth for Telefunken, and this Columbia version of the Third. (A live broadcast of the First, on PASC 221, was released after his death.) As there was already a recent Weingartner recording of the First in the Columbia catalog, Mengelberg had to make do with only a single movement as a filler side for his expansive performance of the Academic Festival Overture. In the Third Symphony, the Andante is taken at a surprisingly fast tempo. But lest one think this was done solely to fit the movement onto a side and a half, he takes a similar approach in a 1944 broadcast.

The next selections display Mengelberg’s deft touch with lighter music. A highlight of the Suppé overture is the beautifully played solo by longtime Concertgebouw principal cellist Marix Loevensohn. The Johann Strauss work is a showcase for the various sections of the orchestra, each displaying a memorable individuality. The Bizet again draws attention to the portamenti of the Concertgebouw strings, as they work up to an expertly paced crescendo.

Three composers Mengelberg knew personally follow in our program. Both Grieg and Ravel expressed admiration for the conductor; and Mahler was a close friend whose works Mengelberg championed for years, both before and after the composer’s death. The Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth presented here is perhaps the most important document in this set; for in addition to being the conductor’s only commercial recording of a Mahler work, its notably faster pacing reveals it in a much different light than that of subsequent interpreters.

The Ravel was one of the four earliest recordings of the work, made between January and May of 1930, after those of Piero Coppola, the composer himself and Serge Koussevitzky. Though it drives to an impressively loud conclusion, the performance is somewhat hobbled by the players’ requirement to stop every four minutes to start a new matrix, with tempi and volume levels becoming inconsistent from side to side.

The final work is an unpublished take of the Waltz from Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, which was omitted from our earlier all-Tchaikovsky set. There is some untidy ensemble around 2:50, which may have been the reason Mengelberg recorded another two takes before he approved the result. Such was his sense of perfectionism, even in a seemingly minor filler side like this.

Mark Obert-Thorn

Click below to expand track listing:
MENGELBERG conducts Tchaikovsky - The Complete Columbia Recordings (1927-1930) - PASC511

CD 1 (60:01)

1. TCHAIKOVSKY: Romeo and Juliet – Fantasy Overture (18:41)

Recorded 30 May 1930 in the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam
Matrix nos.: WAX 5599-2, 5600-2, 5601-2 and 5602-2
First issued on Columbia LX 55/6


TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36

2. 1st Mvt.: Andante sostenuto (17:18)
3. 2nd Mvt.: Andantino in modo di canzone (8:53)
4. 3rd Mvt.: Pizzicato ostinato (5:44)
5. 4th Mvt.: Finale – Allegro con fuoco (9:23)

Recorded 11 - 15 June 1929 in the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam
Matrix nos.: WAX 5034-5, 5035-1, 5036-2, 5037-1, 5038-2, 5039-1, 5040-3, 5041-1, 5042-2 and 5043-1
First issued on Columbia L 2366/70


CD 2 (68:39)

TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64

1. 2nd Mvt.: Andante cantabile, con alcuna licenza (14:09)
2. 3rd Mvt.: Valse – Allegro moderato (6:12)

Recorded 10 June 1927 in the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam
Matrix nos.: WAX 2831/6 (Columbia) and 7855/60 (Odeon)
First issued on Odeon (France) 123.533/5


TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64

3. 1st Mvt.: Andante (13:33)
4. 2nd Mvt.: Andante cantabile, con alcuna licenza (14:23)
5. 3rd Mvt.: Valse – Allegro moderato (6:22)
6. 4th Mvt.: Finale – Andante maestoso (10:01)

Recorded 10 May 1928 in the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam
Matrix nos.: WAX 3629-3, 3630-3, 3631-3, 3632-3, 3633-2, 3634-3, 3635-2, 3636-2, 3637-4, 3638-2, 3639-3, 3640-3 and 3641-3
First issued on Columbia L 2176/82


TCHAIKOVSKY: Serenade for Strings, Op. 48

7. 2nd Mvt.: Waltz (3:57)

Recorded 10 May 1928 in the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam
Matrix no.: WAX 3646-3
First issued on Columbia L 2182


Willem Mengelberg ∙ Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam


Producer and Audio Restoration Engineer: Mark Obert-Thorn
Pitch stabilisation (CD 2, Tracks 3 – 7): Andrew Rose


Cover artwork based on photographs of Tchaikovsky and Mengelberg

Total duration:  2hr 08:26

MENGELBERG Columbia Concertgebouw Recordings, Volume 1 (1926-31) - PASC595

MENGELBERG and the CONCERTGEBOUW ORCHESTRA
Columbia Recordings ∙ Volume I


CD 1 (74:55)

J. S. BACH: Suite No. 2 in B minor for Flutes and Strings, BWV 1067
1. Ouverture: Grave; Allegro (8:04)
2. Rondeau: Allegro (1:32)
3. Sarabande: Andante (2:08)
4. Bourées I and II (3:09)
5. Polonaise: Moderato (3:26)
6. Menuet: Allegretto (1:21)
7. Badinerie: Allegro (1:39)
Recorded 2 June 1931 ∙ Matrices: WAX 6134-2, 6135-1, 6136-2, 6137-2, 6138-1 & 6139-2 ∙ First issued on Columbia LX 134/6

J. C. BACH (arr. Stein): Sinfonia in B flat, Op. 18, No. 2 (“Lucio Silla” Overture)
8. 1st Mvt.: Allegro assai (2:55)
9. 2nd Mvt.: Andante (4:11)
Recorded 10 June 1927 ∙ Matrices: WAX 2837-1 & 2838-1 ∙ First issued on Columbia L 2047

10. CHERUBINI: Anacreon – Overture (9:39)
Recorded 10 June 1927 ∙ Matrices: WAX 2841-2, 2842-1 & 2843-1 ∙ First issued on Columbia L 1972/3

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 8 in F, Op. 93
11. 2nd Mvt.: Allegretto scherzando (4:03)
Recorded 10 June 1927 ∙ Matrix: WAX 2844-1 ∙ First issued on Columbia L 1973

BEETHOVEN: The Ruins of Athens – Op.113
12. No. 4 – Turkish March (2:44)
Recorded 31 May 1930 ∙ Matrix: WAX 5607-2 ∙ First issued on Columbia LX 130

13. BEETHOVEN: Coriolan, Op. 62 – Overture (7:47)
Recorded 1 June 1931 ∙ Matrices: WAX 6128-2 & 6129-2 ∙ First issued on Columbia LX 167

14. BEETHOVEN: Leonore Overture No. 1, Op. 138 (9:10)
Recorded 2 June 1931 ∙ Matrices: WAX 6132-1 & 6133-2 ∙ First issued on Columbia LX 160

15. BEETHOVEN: Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72b (13:07)
Recorded 30 May 1930 ∙ Matrices: WAX 5593-2, 5594-2 & 5595-2 ∙ First issued on Columbia LX 129/30


CD 2 (78:29)

1. BEETHOVEN: Egmont, Op. 84 – Overture (8:05)
Recorded 2 June 1931 ∙ Matrices: WAX 6130-2 & 6131-2 ∙ First issued on Columbia LX 161

2. WEBER: Der Freischütz – Overture (8:58)
Recorded 1 June 1931 ∙ Matrices: WAX 6126-2 & 6127-3 ∙ First issued on Columbia LX 154

3. WEBER: Euryanthe – Overture (8:26)
Recorded 1 June 1931 ∙ Matrices: WAX 6124-2 & 6125-3 ∙ First issued on Columbia LX 157

4. WEBER: Oberon – Overture (9:08)
Recorded 12 May 1928 ∙ Matrices: WAX 3642-3, 3643-2 & 3644-2 ∙ First issued on Columbia L 2312/3

MENDELSSOHN: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Incidental Music), Op. 61
5. No. 1 - Scherzo (3:46)
Recorded 12 May 1928 ∙ Matrix: WAX 3645-2 ∙ First issued on Columbia 9560

BERLIOZ: The Damnation of Faust, Op. 24
6. Dance of the Sylphs (2:22)
7. Hungarian March (3:21)
Recorded May, 1926 ∙ Matrices: WAX 1543-3 & 1542-2 ∙ First issued on Columbia L 1810

8. LISZT: Les Préludes, G97 (15:26)
Recorded 11 June 1929 ∙ Matrices: WAX 5044-2, 5045-2, 5046-2 & 5047-2 ∙ First issued on Columbia L 2362/3


Early Versions and Alternate Takes

9. BEETHOVEN: Coriolan, Op. 62 – Overture (7:34)
Recorded May, 1926 ∙ Matrices: WAX 1546-2 & 1547-2 ∙ First issued on Columbia L 1848

10. BEETHOVEN: Egmont, Op. 84 – Overture (7:34)
Recorded May, 1926 ∙ Matrices: WAX 1544-3 & 1545-1 ∙ First issued on Columbia L 1799

MENDELSSOHN: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Incidental Music), Op. 61
11. No. 1 - Scherzo (3:50)
Recorded 12 May 1928 ∙ Matrix: WAX 3645-1 ∙ First issued on American Columbia 67486-D


Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam
conducted by Willem Mengelberg


Producer and Audio Restoration Engineer: Mark Obert-Thorn

Special thanks to Nathan Brown and Charles Niss for providing source material
All recordings made in the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam

Total duration:  2hr 33:24

MENGELBERG Columbia Concertgebouw Recordings, Volume 2 (1926-32) - PASC616

MENGELBERG and the CONCERTGEBOUW ORCHESTRA
Columbia Recordings ∙ Volume II


CD 1 (73:10)

1. WAGNER: Tannhäuser – Overture (Dresden version) (13:32)
Recorded 9 May 1932 ∙ Matrices: WAX 6413-3, 6414-3, 6415-2 & 6416-1 ∙ First issued on Columbia LX 170/1

2. WAGNER: Lohengrin – Prelude to Act 1 (8:38)
Recorded 10 June 1927 ∙ Matrices: WAX 2839-1 & 2840-2 ∙ First issued on Columbia L 1948

3. BRAHMS: Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80 (11:13)
Recorded 30 May 1930 ∙ Matrices: WAX 5596-1, 5597-2 & 5598-2 ∙ First issued on Columbia LX 58/9

BRAHMS: Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68
4. 3rd Mvt.: Un poco allegretto e grazioso (4:33)
Recorded 31 May 1930 ∙ Matrix: WAX 5608-2 ∙ First issued on Columbia LX 59

BRAHMS: Symphony No. 3 in F major, Op. 90
5. 1st Mvt.: Allegro con brio (13:04)
6. 2nd Mvt.: Andante (7:07)
7. 3rd Mvt.: Poco allegretto (5:38)
8. 4th Mvt.: Allegro (9:23)
Recorded 10 May 1931 ∙ Matrices: WAX 6417-2, 6418-1, 6419-2, 6420-1, 6421-2, 6422-2, 6423-3 & 6424-2 ∙ First issued on Columbia LX 220/3


CD 2 (65:24)

1. SUPPÉ: Poet and Peasant – Overture (8:52)
Recorded 11 May 1932 ∙ Matrices: WAX 6425-2 & 6426-2 ∙ First issued on Columbia LX 179

2. J. STRAUSS II: Perpetuum Mobile, Op. 257 (4:04)
Recorded 11 May 1932 ∙ Matrix: WAX 6428-1 ∙ First issued on Columbia LX 240

3. BIZET: L’Arlésienne - Adagietto (4:01)
Recorded 11 June 1929 ∙ Matrix: WAX 5048-3 ∙ First issued on Columbia DX 6

GRIEG: Two Elegiac Melodies, Op. 34
4. No. 1 – Heart Wounds (Hjertesår) (3:44)
5. No. 2 – The Last Spring (Våren) (4:51)
Recorded 3 June 1931 ∙ Matrices: WAX 6140-2 & 6141-1 ∙ First issued on Columbia LX 168

MAHLER: Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor
6. 4th Mvt.: Adagietto: Sehr langsam (7:15)
Recorded May, 1926 ∙ Matrices: WAX 1548-2 & 1549-2 ∙ First issued on Columbia L 1768

8. RAVEL: Boléro (14:40)
Recorded 31 May 1930 ∙ Matrices: WAX 5603-1, 5604-1, 5605-1 & 5606-2 ∙ First issued on Columbia LX 48/9


Early Versions and Alternate Takes

9. WAGNER: Tannhäuser – Overture (Dresden version) (14:00)
Recorded May, 1926 ∙ Matrices: WAX 1538-1, 1539-3, 1540-2 & 1541-3 ∙ First issued on Columbia L 1770/1

TCHAIKOVSKY: Serenade for Strings, Op. 48
10. 2nd Mvt.: Waltz (3:54)
Recorded 12 May 1928 ∙ Matrix: WAX 3646-1 ∙ Take unissued on 78 rpm


Willem Mengelberg and the Concertgebouw Orchestra

Producer and Audio Restoration Engineer: Mark Obert-Thorn
Special thanks to Nathan Brown, Frank Forman and Charles Niss for providing source material
All recordings made in the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam

Total duration:  2hr 18:29