All of the selections here were well recorded, except for the Don Juan (more about later). I am not very familiar with Thomas' Mignon Overture, a seemingly attractive piece, but Van Beinum makes it sound pleasant enough. In the Schubert Sixth Symphony, there is an odd juxtaposition of interpretive traits. Not infrequently, Van Beinum alternates between being too formal and pounding the daylights out of things. With charm and elegance on a holiday there's not much class to his Schubert. I had high hopes for the Brahms Second, since I have the mono recording Van Beinum made of it at about the same time this live performance was taped. That studio version was very fine. This audience take, however, finds the conductor a bit low key in the first two movements. There is some animation in the third movement but not much grace. Only in the last movement, where there is a rousing conclusion, do things come alive.
The second disc opens with Nicolai's Overture to The Merry Wives of Windsor. At times, Van Beinum seems to push the music rather than let it unfold naturally. With the Don Juan, things start with a rather closed in sound and stay that way. The voltage seems turned down, and the usually tender opening violin passage that ushers in the wonderfully romantic portion of Don is truncated. From there to the work's end there doesn't appear to be much life, the dully engineered recording itself being partly responsible...The Scheherazade is really pretty decent, but it is up against some tough competition. For color, adventurousness and charming, exotic warmth try Stokowski(his version with the London Symphony, not the Royal Philharmonic), Reiner, Beecham or Ansermet...Finally, there is Elgar's Cockaigne, one of my favorite overtures. Van Beinum slides through too quickly in some passages, but his performance is generally quite good though it misses the affection of Barbirolli and the swagger of Solti in their accounts.
In closing, although I feel let down by a number of these performances, my admiration for Van Beinum remains undiminished. I've heard too many very fine things from him. I think he deserved better treatment in terms of what was chosen to be represented on these discs. I am aware of an exceptional Mendelssohn "Italian" Symphony and colorful Midsummer Night's Dream he made as well as some superb late Bruckner Symphonies, a very dynamic and atmospheric Debussy combo including La Mer and Nocturnes, a lovely Schubert Rosamunde and what I consider to be one of the most outstanding stereo Brahms Firsts I've ever heard. He also recorded an excellent stereo Brahms Fourth. Look in these and some other places for the best of Van Beinum's legacy.