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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


HOFFNUNG for CHRISTMAS? an ideal Christmas present for yourself or your friends.
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Compilation: Sir Thomas Beecham conducts
Mili BALAKIREV (1837-1910) *
Symphony No. 1 in C major

Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844 -1908)

Le Coq d’Or – Suite *
Alexander BORODIN (1833-1887)

Polovtsian Dances
London Philharmonic Choir and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham
[Live recordings from BBC Radio Maida Vale studio * in 1956 and from the Royal Festival Hall † in 1954] MONO
BBC LEGENDS BBCL 4084-2 [74:34]

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Think of Sir Thomas Beecham and the composers who more readily come to mind are: Delius, Mozart, Berlioz, Richard Strauss and Sibelius. But he was equally enthusiastic about the Russian composers. In fact he gave the first European performance of Rachmaninov’s Third Symphony with his London Philharmonic Orchestra in November 1937. Balakirev, Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky appealed to him the most. In fact, his EMI recordings of the Balakirev Symphony No. 1 and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade are classics of the gramophone.

All the pieces on this album are, of course, in the colourful hedonistic tradition of Scheherazade. The mono sound might be dated, the strings a bit wiry, the percussion somewhat lumpy in places but there is no denying the excitement and immediacy of these live performances; the RPO responding enthusiastically to Beecham’s firmly controlled yet passionate direction. The Symphony, full of oriental splendour, shimmers seductively in the wonderfully atmospheric scherzo; and the perfumed languor of the Andante, redolent of nights in the harem under the stars, is very persuasive. Rimsky-Korsakov’s Golden Cockerel Suite is slightly disappointing in comparison – the vivid colours seem muted, the flow a bit laboured. The concluding war-horse, Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances complete with choir, charges forth unbridled.

A rewarding disc for Beecham fans.

Ian Lace


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