If you think the
contents of this disc look familiar you’re right. It was originally
released over a decade ago on Dutton CDLX7002 and is now re-released,
without alteration, at lower price under their CDBP number.
have a good word for a solo or playing they like; they call
it “tasty.” Let me just say that this disc is a tasty dish all
the way through. Beecham’s LPO is in lithe and regal form,
the violins led by Paul Beard except in the later 1937 recording
when David McCullum was leader, and the wind department sporting
Geoffrey Gilbert, Léon Goossens, Reginald Kell and John Alexandra.
It was a star band in which the violin section even contained
Albert Sammons’ talented brother Thomas.
If you’ve never
heard Beecham’s Debussy’s and wonder whether it will captivate
in the same way as his exploration of earlier French music take
a listen to this sensual, gorgeous, liquid 1939 recording. The
winds are superbly characterful and very much to the fore; there
are some giddy string portamenti and a delicious sense of languid
delicacy such as few conductors even of Beecham’s generation
could summon. Indeed he draws out of his orchestra the kind
of sounds few orchestras in the world could then match.
acts as a zestful scherzo after the heady delights of the Debussy.
Beecham was more drawn to Rossini (these are piano originals,
orchestrated) than to Respighi and he evokes enormous vitality
and colour from the suite. Rhythms are deft, internal sectional
balance is tight and in the Tarantelle there’s a delightful
pulse, a terpsichorean grace (he was a ballet man of course,
as much as an opera and concert conductor), string slashes and
Goossens can be
heard most vividly in the Bizet in which the operatic Serenade,
written for the tenor, is transcribed for oboe. The curvaceous
lilt of the fiddles fuses in the Danse bohèmienne
with rhythmic élan and verve. There’s a slight moment of scuffy
surface in this last but it passes. Beecham ranked with Hamilton
Harty as master Berlioz conductors in Britain – the former was
fortunate that a significant amount of his Berlioz was recorded
either commercially or off-air – and his scenes from the Damnation
of Faust prove how aerial, incisive and dramatic he was. Fans
of audible asides can hear him thank the orchestra after their
elfin Danse de Sylphes. Beecham was a judicious conductor
of Dvořák and one who selected those works closest to his
musical heartbeat. Of these the Slavonic Rhapsody recorded here
was certainly one – and those who know his live Fifth Symphony
recording of around the same time (preserved on Symposium) will
know how propulsive and alive his Dvořák performances of
the 1930s were. This one is no exception – swinging, swaying,
with finely judged pauses, excellent wind chording and a characterful
sheen to the strings.
A warm welcome back
to this selection – neatly transferred - which offers tempting
repertoire and irresistible performances.