Somm has been highly
active in reviving out-of-the-way Beecham
material. Here they have had access
to a concert given by the newly-formed
RPO and present the bulk of it; there
wasn’t room for the other item on the
programme which was Berners’s The
Triumphs of Neptune. Beecham aficionados
will know he left behind two commercial
recordings of this.
It was the fifteenth
concert given by the orchestra, though
despite the hectic pre-Christmas round
of concert giving and recording sessions
it was very much a still-provisional
band. The leader was ex-London String
Quartet first violin John Pennington
though he was soon to cede to Oscar
Lampe and return to the newly reconstituted
LSQ in America. The viola section was
led by Leonard Rubens and the excellent
Raymond Clarke led the cellos. The wind
section was on its way to establishing
itself as a sovereign body; Gerald Jackson,
Leonard Brain, Archie Camden and Reginald
Kell. Dennis Brain led the horns. Within
a year Kell had gone to America to be
replaced by Brymer. Gwydion Brooke replaced
The programme here
was, with the exception of the Schumann,
standard Beecham fare. The Mozart G
minor can be contrasted with the pre-War
LPO 1937 performance and indeed the
post-War recording Beecham made with
the later RPO incarnation [Sony SMK89809].
Beecham’s view of the later Mozart symphonies
generally grew more mannered as he aged.
The earliest performance is the most
recommendable; portamenti are more pervasive
but more affectionate, the string playing
is more incisive and the inner part
writing more athletically brought out.
The fortes in this live performance
are rather trenchant and accents are
sometimes rather brusque. The slow movement
sounds rather more exaggerated as well,
both in terms of phrasing and weight.
The concerto featured
Moura Lympany who rather nervously announced
to Beecham that her conception of the
work probably differed from the norm.
Her first movement is certainly quite
fast though the contours of her performance
put me in mind, at least temporarily,
of Yves Nat’s 1933 traversal. It’s certainly
not at all the kind of performance that
Myra Hess was giving at the time, nor
indeed, somewhat later, Géza
Anda, to take two other rather disparate
examples of stylish Schumann players.
There are sufficient problems with the
recording to damp total contentment.
Tuttis don’t really register and the
piano tone is rather cloudy. The orchestra
is inclined to be drowned behind Lympany
– especially when she journeys to the
bass. Lissom and affectionate in conception
just enough survives to show her elegance
The Mendelssohn has
all Beecham’s buoyancy though here not
always refinement; the Wagner makes
a fine addition and is highly expressive
if not quite in the Knappertsbusch class.
Despite the problems
with the recording and the occasionally
rather sub-standard orchestral playing
this is an intriguing, and rare, look
at the RPO in its early performances.
Graham Melville-Mason’s note give one
all that one requires by way of identification