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Sir Thomas Beecham - English Music
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
Over the Hills and Far Away [12:57]
Sleigh Ride [5:30]
Brigg Fair [15:42]
Florida  Suite [35:13]
Marche  Caprice [4:00]
Dance Rhapsody No. 2 [7:40]
Summer Evening [6:22]
On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring [7:04]
Summer Night on the River [6:37]
A Song before Sunrise [6:07]
Fennimore and Gerda - Intermezzo [5:11]
Irmelin Prelude [5:03]
Songs of Sunset [29:25]
Dance Rhapsody No. 1 [12:10]
Violin Concerto [23:24]
The Song of the High Hills [24:30]
Paa Vidderne (On the Heights) [12:19]
A Village Romeo and Juliet [101:18]
Sea Drift [23:01]
Edward GERMAN (1862-1936)
Gypsy Suite (Valse Mélancolique (Lonely Life); Allegro di molto (The Dance); Menuetto (Love Duet); Tarantella (The Revel)) [15:36]
Granville BANTOCK (1868-1946)
Fifine at the Fair [32:57]
Arnold BAX (1883-1953)
The Garden of Fand [16:44]
Lord BERNERS (1883-1950)
The Triumph of Neptune (Schottische; Hornpipe; Polka (The Sailor's Return) (Robert Alva (baritone)); Harlequinade; Dance of the Fairy Princess; Sunday morning (Intermezzo); Apotheosis of Neptune) [14:08]
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Thomas Beecham
see end of review for other performers
rec. 1946-57. stereo/mono. ADD
EMI CLASSICS 9099152 [6 CDs: 73:53 + 74:17 + 72:42 + 63:25 + 60:54 + 79:56]

Experience Classicsonline


It is inevitable that the EMI Classics box set devoted to Beecham’s recordings of British music should concentrate on Delius. The company has given us a fine collection of survey boxes in this, the fiftieth anniversary of the conductor’s death. That said, you will need the CBS recordings called ‘Sir Thomas Beecham conducts Delius’ [5 CDs on SK5K87342] as well as the pre-war recordings and the live Somm broadcasts to round out your knowledge of his comprehensively authoritative way with this repertoire. Five of the six CDs in this EMI box are devoted to Delius and they can be heard in transfers that require a few words.
 
The majority come from established transfers. Brigg Fair and a number of other performances come from 2001 transfers, whilst A Village Romeo and Juliet is a straight copy of the 1992 transfers, as are The Song of the High Hills, the Violin Concerto and a number of others. You will note that CD3 in this box is a copy of CDM 7 64054 2, for example - that single disc included the Concerto, the Dance Rhapsody No.1, On the Mountains, and The Song of the High Hills. Yet there are oddities, if I can put it that way. A recording made in 1957, is represented by a 2011 restoration. One of the Florida Suite - the first movement - comes via a decade old 2001 transfer whereas the remaining three movements were again newly transferred in 2011. The same goes for Songs of Sunset, restored in 2011. So there has clearly been an attempt to address the question of new work in this area, an area in which it’s badly needed. EMI regrettably has been very inconsistent in its restoration work and some of its Great Recordings of the Century series have been downright poor.
 
The first disc gives us the early Over the Hills and Far Away, heard in Beecham’s own edition, and notable for the translucence of the playing at around 10’. Beecham marks and measures the climax of Brigg Fair with unerring skill and control, and the Florida Suite has a galvanising opening movement Dance, and a roistering sunset dance. The second disc gives us favourites. Summer Evening, A Song before Sunrise, On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring and then the big setting of Ernest Dowson’s Songs of Sunset. One would have thought that Beecham might have recorded both of the Two Pieces for small orchestra together but no - Summer Night and the First Cuckoo were actually recorded in successive years. His recording practices were often chaotic, with conductor and orchestra returning to a work still unfinished after a couple of years. The Irmelin Prelude is especially lovely for its string cushioning and wind phrasing.
 
The third disc includes pieces mentioned before. Of them the Dance Rhapsody No.1 is especially impressive, not least leader David McCallum’s solo in the final movement. Talking of violinists, an earlier leader of the RPO was Jean Pougnet who plays the Concerto, instigating Beecham’s edition and not that of the dedicatee, Albert Sammons, who was there for the sessions. It’s an effective reading though Pougnet’s rather tightly coiled playing is obviously no match for Sammons. There’s truly passionate sweep in the last tableau of the 1946 recording of The Song of the High Hills. Discs 4 and 5 are in a sense self-recommending given that we hear A Village Romeo and Juliet in the 1948 recording, and Sea Drift from 1951. Both were restored using 1992 tapes. The final disc does contain surprises. I’d never heard Beecham’s performance of Edward German’s Gypsy Suite but three newly re-mastered 1956 tracks have come up extremely well. Then we have the three Bs; Bantock, Bax and Berners. Fifine at the Fair with Jack Brymer’s clarinet solo, is a celebrated recording, and Bax’s The Garden of Fand no less so. Berners’ The Triumph of Neptune has been transferred before but never fails to make an impact, though we are still operating with a 1991 restoration of a pre-war recording with the LPO; beware of EMI’s track listing which dates it to 1947.
 
This 6 CD box is a fine, bargain priced offering. There are adequate notes, no texts, but a lifetime’s listening guaranteed.
 
Jonathan Woolf 

see also review by Rob Barnett
 
Tracklisting for Delius discs
CD 1 [73:53]
01 Over the Hills and Far Away (ed. Beecham) (1960
02 Sleigh ride (Winter night) (2001 Digital Remaster)
03 Introduction (Slow. Pastoral): Brigg Fair
04 I. Theme (with easy movement): Brigg Fair
05 Variation 1: Brigg Fair
06 Variation 2: Brigg Fair
07 Variation 3: Brigg Fair
08 Variation 4: Brigg Fair
09 Variation 5: Brigg Fair
10 Variation 6: Brigg Fair
11 II. Interlude (Slow and very quietly): Brigg Fair
12 III. Variation 7 (Rather quicker but not hurried
13 Variation 8: Brigg Fair
14 Variation 9 (With easy movement): Brigg Fair
15 Variation 10: Brigg Fair
16 Variation 11 (Slow. With solemnity): Brigg Fair
17 Variation 12 (Maestoso): Brigg Fair
18 Transition: Brigg Fair
19 IV. Variation 13 (Gaily): Brigg Fair
20 Variation 14: Brigg Fair
21 Variation 15: Brigg Fair
22 Variation 16: Brigg Fair
23 Transition (Rather quicker): Brigg Fair
24 Variation 17 (Rather slower. Very broadly): Brigg Fair
25 Coda (Very quietly): Brigg Fair
26 I. Daybreak - Dance from Florida Suite RTVI/1 (
27 II. By the River (Andantino): Florida Suite
28 III. Sunset (Moderato) - Danza (Allegretto)
29 IV. At Night (Andante moderato): Florida Suite
30 March-caprice (1987 Digital Remaster)

CD 2
[74:17]
01 A Dance Rhapsody No. 2 (2001 Digital Remaster)
02 Summer Evening (2001 Digital Remaster)
03 On hearing the first cuckoo in Spring (2001 Digital Remaster)
04 Summer Night on the River (2001 Digital Remaster)
05 A Song before sunrise (2001 Digital Remaster)
06 Intermezzo from Fennimore and Gerda (2001 Digital (Frederick Delius/Eric Fenby)
07 Irmelin Prelude (2001 Digital Remaster)
08 A song of the setting sun! (Quietly): Songs of Sunset (Frederick Delius/Ernest Dowson) - Maureen Forrester/John Cameron/Beecham Choral Society
09 Cease smiling, dear! (With easy movement)
10 Pale amber sunlight falls (Slow)
11 Exceeding sorrow consumeth my sad heart! (Frederick Delius/Ernest Dowson)
12 By the sad waters of separation (Frederick Delius/Ernest Dowson)
13 See how the trees and the osiers lithe (Freshly). (Frederick Delius/Ernest Dowson)
14 I was not sorrowful (Frederick Delius/Ernest Dowson)
15 They are not long, the weeping and the laughter (Frederick Delius/Ernest Dowson)

CD 3 [72:42]
01 Lento -: A Dance Rhapsody No. 1 (1992 Digital Remaster)
02 Comodo -: A Dance Rhapsody No. 1 (1992 Digital Remaster)
03 Vivo -: A Dance Rhapsody No. 1 (1992 Digital Remaster)
04 Più lento tranquillo -: A Dance Rhapsody No. 1
05 Molto adagio: A Dance Rhapsody No. 1 (1992 Digital remaster)
06 With moderate tempo -: Violin Concerto (1992 Digital remaster)
07 Slower -: Violin Concerto (1992 Digital Remaster)
08 Tempo I - Allegretto - Più moderato: Violin Concerto
09 With quiet easy movement - Tranquillo -: The Song of the High Hills - Freda Hart/Leslie Jones/Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
10 Very slow (The wide, far distance - The great solitudes)
11 In tempo -: The Song of the High Hills
12 Very quietly - Tempo I: The Song of the High Hills
13 Paa Vidderne (On the Heights) (1992 Digital Remaster)

CD 4
[63:25]
A Village Romeo and Juliet
01 SCENE 1 - September. A piece of land on a hill
02 SCENE 2 - Six years later. Outside Marti's house
03 SCENE 3 - The Wildland:
04 SCENE 4 - Interior of Mart's house (part 1)
05 The dream of Sali and Vrenchen (Wedding Scene)

CD 5 [60:54]
01 SCENE 5 - The Fair
02 The Walk to the Paradise Garden
03 SCENE 6 - The Paradise Garden
04 Once Paumanok: Sea Drift - Gordon Clinton/Sir Thomas Beecham
05 Shine! shine! shine!: Sea Drift
06 Till of a sudden: Sea Drift
07 Blow! blow! blow!: Sea Drift
08 Yes my brother I know: Sea Drift
09 O rising stars!: Sea Drift
10 O reckless despairing carols: Sea Drift
11 O past! O happy life: Sea Drift

Other performers
John Cameron (baritone), Maureen Forrester (contralto) (Sunset); Jean Pougnet (violin) (concerto); David McCallum (violin) (Dance Rhapsody No. 1); Freda Hart (soprano), Leslie Jones (tenor) (Hills); Gordon Clinton (baritone) (Sea Drift); Dennis Dowling (Manz), Frederick Sharp (Marti), Margaret Ritchie (Sali - as a child), René Soames (Sali), Dorothy Bond (Vreli - as a child), Lorely Dyer (Vreli), Gordon Clinton (The Dark Fiddler) (A Village Romeo and Juliet) Jack Brymer (Fifine) 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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