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Thomas BEECHAM compilation

Emmanuel CHABRIER (1841-1894)
Gwendoline Overture (1885)
España (1883)
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Divertimento in D major K131 (excerpts) (1732)
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
Brigg Fair (1907)
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
L’Enfant prodigue Cortège et Air de danse (1884 – rev. 1906-08)
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Le Rouet d’Omphale (1871-2)
Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)
Le Troyens – chasse royale et orage (1856-58)
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
La vierge: Le Dernier Sommeil de la vierge (1880)
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham
Recorded at BBC Studios, Maida Vale, London at various times between 1955 and 1959 Mono
BBC LEGENDS BBCL 4113-2 [76:35]
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A terrific concert of Beecham ‘Lollipops’ (or encores) opening with the urgency and drama of Chabrier’s Gwendoline Overture and closing with an equally exciting reading of the same composer’s colourful hedonistic Iberian evocation, España. Beecham took as much care in his preparation and performance of these smaller pieces as for the more substantial works in his wide-ranging repertoire.

This care in detail and nuance, rhythm and dynamics is very evident in sparkling performances of his beloved Mozart. Just listen to the liveliness and elegance in this reading of the K131 Divertimento in D. Then there is his special way with the music of Frederick Delius (he used to liken it to a wayward woman and that he was determined to tame it). His Brigg Fair is a magical evocation of an English landscape.

Beecham had a great affection for the sophistication of French music. His version of Debussy’s ‘Cortège’ and ‘Air de danse’ from L’Enfant prodigue is a beautiful balance of filigree delicacy and exuberant passion against exotic impressionistic colourings. Beecham also spins enchantment and high drama around Saint-Saëns Le Rouet d’Omphale while the thrill of his ‘Royal Hunt and Storm’ from Berlioz’s The Trojans raises tingles (Berlioz was another of Beecham’s passions). Massenet’s Last Sleep of the Virgin is piously affecting here.

Graham Melville-Mason writes wittily about how the Lollipops came to be so-named and of the magical way Beecham had in coaxing such wonderful playing from his orchestras. The album includes two tracks devoted to Beecham introducing the pieces by Massenet and Chabrier. Before the Massenet he talks amusingly about the function of the Lollipops.

Despite the advertised 20 bit digitally remastering, it must be said that the mono sound is not exemplary.

A nice souvenir of Beecham’s popular Lollipop encores.

Ian Lace

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