TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) The Nutcracker Op 71a Ballet Suite (1892) [22:51]
Symphony No. 4 in F Minor Op.36 (1877) [42:33] Eugene Onegin – Waltz Op.24 (1879) [6:09]
rec. Salle Wagram, Paris, Kingsway Hall, London 1957-58 (Symphony);
1953-54 (Nutcracker); Studio No1, Abbey Road, London 1959
(Waltz) EMI CLASSICS
GREAT RECORDINGS OF THE CENTURY 3800162 [71:49]
will remember this collection – minus the delicious Eugene
Onegin waltz which is an addition – from the Beecham Edition
release of 1990 [CDM 7 633802]. Its appearance now as a GROC
is more than welcome and entirely deserved.
Symphony receives a performance of wonderful balance; a perfect
trade-off between the visceral and the introspective served
up quite without ostentation or exaggeration. The architectural
surety of the conception, though a product of sessions a
year apart, tends to destabilise those who argue that Beecham’s
symphonic control was imperfect. This is a criticism usually
applied to his Beethoven or Brahms recordings, though why
those critics fail to extend such strictures to his Sibelius
or Tchaikovsky I’ve never quite understood.
allows tremendous opportunities for felicitous wind comments – freedom
within a certain pulse it should be added – and ensures real
string cantabile, lyric phrasing and magnificently measured
outbursts as well. Pointing remains witty and incisive and
the performance as a whole a match for pretty much anyone,
in terms of conception and execution. This was however always
a quixotic recording for one reason. The Paris sessions that
produced the first movement were in mono; attempts to record
in London in stereo foundered and only the first movement
was taped in stereo. So what we hear is good 1957-8 mono.
Other transfers have included the stereo-mono switch. The
tapes have also been subjected to what EMI calls ART – Abbey
Road Technology, a clean up that seems to have produced some
interesting results. For a start this transfer is cut at
a somewhat higher level than that 1990 edition. It’s also
got more presence and more bite. Perhaps too that’s a little
more glare on the brass and less obvious warmth. But certainly
the reading does come alive in this new restoration.
Nutcracker his principals are on suitably delectable
form. The flutes are delicious in the Allegro giusto, whereas
Beecham is quite slow - not cautious exactly but rather
patrician - in the March, though the pizzicati are animated
enough and rhythmic points register with unadorned excellence.
There's verve and elegance in equal measure in the Trepak – a
real “make the buggers hop” tempo this and impossible to
dance to - and the Danse Arabe is taken at a decent
speed, fully conveying its incipient drama. Rather slower
than usual but nicely inflected the Danse des Mirlitons certainly
escapes the charge of being over dainty and merely elfin
in Beecham's leisurely hands. Come the Valse des Fleurs and
we can admire the burnish of the RPO's violas and cellos
and the effulgence of the brass. Don't expect absolute
daemonic drive from this Nutcracker; Beecham is
altogether more affable and even-tempered and delightfully
warm. The transfer has ensured that things such as the
flute solo in the Danse chinoise are not as “blasty” as
in previous incarnations. You may for instance have caught
just such a transfer on the Sony Beecham edition - SMK87875.
Catch it anew and newly garbed in this winning disc.
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