Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Symphony No. 1 (1899) [37.47]
Scènes Historiques Opp. 25 and 66: Festivo; At the Drawbridge; The Love Song; The Chase (1899) [26.28]
March from Karelia Suite Op. 11 (1893) [4.50]
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Thomas Beecham
rec. EMI Studio No. 1, Abbey Rd, 23 May, 16-17 Nov, 5, 7 Dec 1951, 5 May 1952 (Symphony); Kingsway Hall, 13 June 1952 (Love Song)
SONY CLASSICAL SMK87798 [69.07]

This disc is something more than Beecham's version of a Sibelius symphony and five lollipops. For a start this is the first authorised appearance on CD of Beecham's recording of the First Symphony. There are multiple Beecham recordings of the Second Symphony (the best of which is live at the RFH in 1954 in which he barks and guffaws his encouragement or imprecations to or at the orchestra) but this is his only recording of the Tchaikovskian First. There is no doubt that this is a good reading not just for its sweep but also for the myriad freshly imagined and executed details. These range from the richly allusive shaping of Jack Brymer's clarinet solo in the opening bars to the Tina Bonifacio's harp graces (tr. 4 4.49) to the black-hearted unanimity of the brass section bristling with such names as Dennis Brain (French horn), Richard Walton (trumpet) and Sidney Langston (trombone). Beecham's audacity knows few bounds. Listen to the defiantly unconventional crawl-pace he sets for the woodland musing of the scherzo (2.20-3.30 tr. 3). This version stands very high in the Sibelius interpretative canon alongside Barbirolli (EMI), Stokowski (Sony) and Collins (Beulah, Decca).

The slighter pieces are pleasingly done: playful, with edges remaining gratifyingly rough and unchamfered - rustic chivalry in the Finnish forests. Beecham is not at his pinnacle in the alla marcia from Karelia Suite. Okko Kamu's Finnish Radio Symphony version on DG is to be preferred. Nevertheless this rounds off the disc in a satisfying glow.

I compared this disc with the same Sony-licensed tracks on Beecham Edition EMI Classics CDM 7 93397 2. There is little to choose between them with the Sony sounding marginally warmer, more haloed, than the 1990 vintage EMI. This is more noticeable in the alla marcia than the other tracks.

Fifty years old yet vivid as the day they were recorded. Mono of course but the single channel hardly seems to matter in face of such tireless life.

Graham Melville-Mason's superb notes come as standard in this series.

Rob Barnett



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