C0399. ANDRÉ CLUYTENS Cond. Berlin Phil., w.Gré Brouwenstijn, Kerstin Meyer, Nicolai Gedda & Frederick Guthrie: The Nine Symphonies (Beethoven). (Netherlands) 5-Disky HR 703732, recorded 1958-60, in Boxed Set. Specially priced. - 0724357037327
"Walter Legge of EMI commissioned Cluytens to record all nine Beethoven symphonies with the Berlin Philharmonic. This was a special mark of Cluytens's rising reputation in the Germanic repertoire, because that orchestra was widely considered, along with the Vienna Philharmonic, to be one of the two finest in the world, especially in performing the Austro/German literatures. Legge, at that same time, commissioned complete Beethoven symphony recordings from Herbert von Karajan, and also from Otto Klemperer, both of whom were already widely acclaimed Austro-German maestros, and both of whom recorded the nine Beethoven symphonies with the Philharmonia of London. For Legge to place Cluytens in the same august Beethoven sphere as Klemperer and Karajan, and to give Cluytens the Berlin Philharmonic no less to do it, expressed EMI's absolute commitment that Cluytens was unsurpassed on Beethoven. All three of these sets were classic performances of these classic masterpieces, and have been reissued many times. What marks the Cluytens set apart from both others is its consistency, and the high extent to which it projects the distinctive optimistic and heroic but also sometimes somber character of Beethoven. The Cluytens Beethoven 9th has been especially frequently reissued, because of its utter lack of straining as it soars straight into the sky and above the clouds heading for the blazing sun of Beethoven's distinctive humanism. The sound which Cluytens drew from the Berlin Philharmonic reflected the pre-Karajan Berlin Philharmonic, and thus was quite different from the orchestra we know today. Before Karajan took over this orchestra in 1956, it had a rich and sonorous tone, not the sleek, efficient, and hard sound, which Karajan cultivated in it. The Cluytens set of the nine Beethoven symphonies might thus be considered the culmination of a tradition of Beethoven performance prior to the modern era, a sound and style so deep that if you look down into it you see the heart of the music, and you experience an age which no longer exists except to the extent that it's archived in this Cluytens Beethoven set and in a few other exalted recordings."
“André Cluytens was among the leading French conductors of his time. His father, Alphonse, was conductor at the Royal French Theater of Antwerp. André became his assistant and a choirmaster there. When an illness prevented Alphonse from conducting, André made his performance début in 1927. After that experience he devoted his efforts to orchestral and opera conducting rather than choral work, and he became a resident conductor in the house.
In 1932 he accepted a position as the musical director of orchestral concerts at the Capitole de Toulouse, and he became a French citizen. In 1935 was appointed the opera director in Lyons. He was an assistant of Josef Krips in a summer series in Vichy and, once again, was called on to substitute when that conductor could not perform. He became musical director of the Lyons Opera in 1942, conductor of the Conservatoire Concerts and the French National Radio Orchestra in Paris in 1943, and in 1944 conducted at the Opéra de Paris. From 1947 to 1953 he was music director of the Paris Opéra-Comique, and in 1949 was appointed as principal conductor of the Conservatory Concerts. He retained that position for the rest of his life. In 1955 he was invited to conduct LOHENGRIN at the Bayreuth Festival, the first French person to appear on the podium there. He débuted in the United States in 1956, and in Britain in 1958, when he substituted for Otto Klemperer. He formed a close relationship with the Vienna State Opera, which he first conducted in 1956, becoming a permanent guest conductor in 1959. In 1960 he became conductor of the Belgian National Orchestra in Belgium, also holding that post until his death. He also formed a close link with the Berlin Philharmonic, with which he made a notable recording of the Beethoven symphonies. However, he was primarily known for French repertoire, premiering works by Françaix, Jolivet, Messiaen, Milhaud, Tomasi, Büsser, and Bondeville. He was invited back to Bayreuth in 1965.”
- Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com