Sometimes nice guys do finish last. Dutch conductor Eduard van Beinum was known to be exceedingly patient, seldom, if ever, in a bad mood on the podium during rehearsals and actively collaborating with an orchestra to get the sound that he desired -- an approach not dissimilar to that employed by Austrian conducting legend Bruno Walter. However, in Beinumâ€™s time, dictatorial conductors with titanic tempers were the ones who gathered renown and critical accolades -- Leopold Stokowski, Arturo Toscanini, Wilhelm FurtwÃ¤ngler and Willem Mengelberg among them. Beinum spent much of his early career working in Mengelbergâ€™s shadow at the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, and even when both were nominated to joint leadership of the orchestra in 1938, it was generally understood that the world-famous Mengelberg was the more "senior" partner of the pair.
World War II changed all that. Mengelberg -- a notoriously pro-German conductor -- was declared a Nazi-sympathizer and drummed out of the top spot with the Concertgebouw Amsterdam. The baton passed to Eduard van Beinum, who wasted no time in elevating the orchestra from a local Dutch phenomenon to a status of international celebrity. Although he began recording for the Dutch Philips label in 1941, after the war ended, Beinum's productivity went into overdrive. With the introduction of long-playing records circa 1948, Beinum and the Concertgebouw embarked on a series of recordings that served as the backbone of Philips' classical long playing catalogue in the mono LP era. He also recorded prolifically with the London Philharmonic after being named music director there in 1949, and gave world premieres of works by British composers such as Benjamin Britten and Malcolm Arnold, and back home he served the cause of Dutch composers as well. In 1956, Beinum took the Concertgebouw on a successful tour of the United States, dividing the conducting duties with Rafael Kubelik; that same year, Beinum accepted the job of musical director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. It was on the podium, during a rehearsal with the Concertgebouw that nearly 50 years ago, on April 13, 1959, that Eduard van Beinum suffered a fatal heart attack at age 58.
His international fame did not outlast him long. When Philips issued a deluxe, 8-LP boxed set entitled The Art of Eduard van Beinum in 1978, a lot of American classical listeners wondered "who?" Beinum just didn't fit the mold for the epic conductor -- he was too congenial, mild mannered, and serious in intent to play the "maestro myth" game, and so Beinum never entered the higher pantheon to which Herbert von Karajan, Leonard Bernstein, and a few others easily ascended. Moreover, the vast majority of his recordings were originally made in mono, insuring a slow introduction onto the CD medium as well. Nevertheless, since about the year 2000 Beinum's reputation is on an uptick, with several outstanding packages either focused on Beinum alone or containing his music making in other contexts -- for example, his carefully considered work as a concerto accompanist, or in live radio broadcasts -- have been made available. Attributes that usually typify Eduard van Beinum-led performances include a crackling sense of electricity and intensity, a desire to examine the inside workings of a piece, drawing out subordinate elements; in Beinum's view, "realizing" rather than "interpreting" the music.
Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam - Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique - Marche aux Supplice
Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam - Rossini: La Gazza Ladra - Overture
Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam - BartÃ³k: Concerto for Orchestra - Intermezzo Interrotto
Philharmonia Orchestra of London - Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 in A major