Willem Mengelberg

Mengelberg Conducts Beethoven & Schubert

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Thanks to producer and engineer Mark Obert-Thorn and the Naxos label, the historic performances of Willem Mengelberg and the Concertgebouw Orchestra can now be heard with stunning clarity and substantial resonance. Transferred from a variety of shellac pressings, these Columbia and Telefunken recordings made between 1927 to 1942 are, by and large, free of extraneous noise, murkiness, and distortion. Though the sound is still compressed, this unavoidable difficulty is easy enough to surmount, considering all the other advantages Obert-Thorn offers us in his wide-frequency restorations. Mengelberg's Beethoven is vital and compelling, particularly in the powerful performances of the Coriolan and Egmont overtures. The Leonore Overture No. 3 is also exciting and surprisingly expansive, its full length held intact through precise editing of the original 78s. The second movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 8, the earliest recording here, offers remarkable sound quality for 1927, and Mengelberg's witty rendition is highly enjoyable, despite the presence of hiss. While details of the Turkish March from the the Ruins of Athens and of Schubert's Marche Militaire are less consistently clear due to their noisy original dubbings, the performances are still entertaining. The Rosamunde Overture rivals the Leonore No. 3 in judicious editing, and the full restoration reveals this legendary conductor and his beloved orchestra in splendid form.

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