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Ernest John MOERAN (1894-1950)
Sinfonietta (1944) [26:52]
Vincent d’INDY (1851-1931)
Jour d'été à la montagne
op.61 (1906) [31:43]
Lord BERNERS (1883-1950)
The Triumph of Neptune
(1926) [18:17]
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra (d'Indy)/Thomas Beecham
rec. Royal Albert Hall, RPS, 25 April 1947 (Moeran); Maida Vale Studio, 6 October 1951; Davis Theatre, Croydon, 10 November 1946. ADD
Somm Beecham Series – Volume 24.
SOMM BEECHAM24 [77:02]
Experience Classicsonline

Beecham takes infinite pains over this Moeran Sinfonietta. It feels slower than many but there is a sly smile about it and a more than usually Delian air about the Andante: try 7:43 onwards. Then again Beecham really hammers the pizzicato triple forte near the start of the Allegro risoluto. He speed-strokes and caresses the lyrically exuberant moments. At 5:07 in the finale he italicises those punched out chords more than any other performance. If coordination goes woolly and ragged the last three minutes it’s certain that Beecham unleashed the wild dogs to bring the house down.

The d’Indy Jour d'été à la montagne gives us three times of day in the Ardèche. It surely bears the impress of Debussy’s La Mer (1903-05) at least in concept and layout. It’s a powerfully atmospheric piece with a refulgent Wagnerian impressionism and the redolence of Franck in the final Soir movement. Beecham revels in this in a much more polished performance than is the case with the Moeran.

The Berners ballet suite - minus The Frozen Forest - is full of whooping élan, gawky balletic innocence, folk-sampler naivety and jaunty insouciance. Most memorable is the pointed Parisian trumpet solo in The Sailor’s Return which also sports the sobbingly boozy lachrymose Last Rose of Summer from bass Trevor Anthony.
 
These are all live performances. The sound is properly historical with a tendency to a ferocious treble, a sometimes whiskery disc surface, the occasionally suppressed cough and a hint of distortion at some of the climactic moments. The d’Indy is probably the cleanest in terms of a pure and polished treble but allowance must be made for a moment of wow near the start. In compensation, the vivid characterisation of all these performances reaches out and grips the listener.
 
Long may this series continue. We are fortunate indeed to have this series and I do hope that the Beecham Archive has many more tapes to yield up to this invaluable Somm series which as ever sports matchless notes by Graham Melville-Mason.
 
Rob Barnett
 

 


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