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. Other Eloquence compilations of Van Beinum’s Berlioz (482 5569) and Debussy (464 6362) 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.
Géza Anda , piano+
Eduard van Beinum
*FIRST INTERNATIONAL CD RELEASE ON DECCA
Recording Producers: Unknown (Franck: Variations symphoniques); John Culshaw (Franck: Psyché); Victor Olof (Ravel: Rapsodie espagnole); Jaap Ginneken (Ravel: Boléro, La Valse)
Balance Engineers: Unknown (Franck: Variations symphoniques); Kenneth Wilkinson (Franck: Psyché, Ravel: Rapsodie espagnole); Henk Jansen, Cees Huizinga, Henk van Leeuwen (Ravel)
Recording Locations: Grote Zaal, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 17–21 May 1943 (Franck: Variations symphoniques), 19 May–1 June 1953 (Franck: Psyché), 10 September 1946 (Ravel: Rapsodie espagnole), 30 June 1958 (Ravel: Boléro), 25 September 1958 (Ravel: La Valse)
Original LP Releases: Decca LXT 2829–30 / LW 5069 (Franck: Psyché); Decca AK2093-94 (Ravel: Rapsodie espagnole); Philips 835009AY (Ravel: Boléro, La Valse); Deutsche Grammophon 1068132 (Franck: Variations symphoniques)
Remastering Engineer: Chris Bernauer
Cover Image: ‘Cupid and Psyche in the nuptial bower’ (c.1792/93) by Hugh Douglas Hamilton (1740–1808), oil on canvas
Booklet Editor: Bruce Raggatt
‘This is comparatively out-of-the-way music that Van Beinum evidently loved and was expert in. The bloom on the orchestra’s tone speaks volumes for the affection the musicians have for the piece.’ Gramophone (Psyché)
‘It is a tip-top performance, wide in dynamic range and thoroughly sensitive to the virtuosic demands of Ravel’s orchestration. Without question, this is the best recording we have had of this pungently evocative work.’ Gramophone (Rapsodie espagnole)