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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



CD REVIEW

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Shostakovich 14 Petrenko


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AVAILABILITY Crotchet

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Symphony No. 29 in A major K201 [21:16]
William ALWYN (1905-1985) Symphony No. 3 (1956) [31:09]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907) Symphonic Dances [24:57]
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sir Thomas Beecham (Mozart; Alwyn)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Thomas Beecham (Grieg)
rec. Royal Festival Hall, London, 10 Oct 1956 (Mozart; Alwyn); Studio 1, Maida Vale, 25 Dec 1955 (Grieg). mono. ADD
SOMM-BEECHAM 23 [77:47]
Experience Classicsonline





Siva Oke’s Somm label continues to delight. Somm’s connection with the Beecham Trust has already yielded a substantial catalogue of the conductor’s rarities. This disc continues the story.

It also complements historic recordings of the first two Alwyn symphonies in a limited edition volume on Dutton CDSJB 1029. There the BBC Symphony Orchestra also appears but conducted by Barbirolli in a 1952 performance of the First Symphony. Will someone now oblige with the Pritchard-led first performance of the thrummingly dynamic Fourth Symphony and the Sargent/Goossens premiere of the ineffably serene Lyra Angelica?

The Mozart 29 comes with some initial hall-audience ambience and a few coughs before the potent ebb and surge is unleashed. Beecham’s big band approach is very responsive to dynamic and has his trademark turbo-charged romantic lightning. The listener is taken from restful stroll to satin-smooth assault on the heavens at flick of a baton. Aside from a tendency towards hurried tempos – which may well appeal - this is an old-style full-on reading. It is done with the pedal down yet is soaked in volatile charm. The tape is in good fettle except for a slight ruckle in the finale. The audience who contribute the occasional cough respond enthusiastically.

The sound in the Alwyn is very much better than for the Mozart despite coming from the same concert. There is some close-up distortion in the very loudest sections but it is really very clean and with something close to a pristine treble. Grand stuff given the vintage. As for the performance, Beecham gives Alwyn’s heels Mercury’s wings. There is a flaming aggression to the angry romance of the first movement and a contest between the voluptuous and tense Shostakovich-like violence in the second. Alwyn’s writing for the brass is magnificent. The finale raves, rages and rails with the stomping impact of Holst’s Mars and Vaughan Williams’ Fourth Symphony. One has the impression that it could not have been written without the RVW symphony as an exemplar – yet it has its own intrinsic and individual power. If you appreciate the Vaughan Williams and also perhaps Arnell 3 then you need to hear this. This performance of Alwyn 3 is the most broodingly intense and splenetic I have heard - and this notwithstanding the speckle of coughs and throat-clearing. Not to be missed.

Rather like the Mozart, Beecham recorded the Grieg Symphonic Dances in the studio and the outcome of those sessions were issued on LP. This studio session was recorded for broadcast on the Third Programme in the Maida Vale studio. The razor edge on the treble is not as keen as in the Alwyn but is very acceptable. These are undemanding charming folk dances but with Gynt-ype outbursts in the final Allegro molto. Beecham seems to have given a bucolic Gallic flavour to the first three movements and the village-green Canteloube came to mind several times.

Graham Melville-Mason provides the usual full liner-notes. They are in English only.

Remarkably this is the twenty-third release in Somm’s Beecham Collection. It upholds the high standards of the rest of the Collection. With this mix of repertoire this disc will appeal first and foremost to the Beecham collector. However Alwynphiles and other British music enthusiasts will be missing something special if they do not hear the Third Symphony in Beecham’s hands.


Rob Barnett

 


 


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