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Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Rienzi overture [11:48]
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
In A Summer Garden [13:58]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Symphony No.9 in C major, D.944 [49:53]
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Thomas Beecham
rec. Royal Festival Hall, December 1956 (Wagner, Rienzi), Usher Hall, Edinburgh, August 1956 (Delius) and Royal Festival Hall, December 1955 (Schubert)
SOMM RECORDINGS SOMM-BEECHAM 29 [75.38]

Perhaps the most intriguing facet of this disc in Somm’s “Beecham Collection” series is the artists it includes. As well as Sir Thomas Beecham as conductor with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, we are treated to Dennis Brain as principal horn in Wagner’s Rienzi Overture which opens the disc. Delius’s following In A Summer Garden features Gwydion Brooke - the son of composer Joseph Holbrooke - as the principal bassoon.
 
The disc as a whole is well-presented, with interesting anecdotes in the booklet notes by Graham Melville-Mason, which enliven the context.
 
Both Rienzi and In A Summer Garden receive good, sympathetic readings with the Delius being particularly evocative. In Schubert’s Symphony No.9 there’s an admirable dynamic range and thrust. The contrast between the Scherzo and Trio sections of the third movement is especially notable, with a pleasing lilt in the latter complementing the more martial feel of the former. The balance is also good, giving the wind motifs prominence where necessary. It is all too easy for these to be lost in the overall texture but here the strings’ sound is not too massive, thereby allowing these musically important figures to be sufficiently forward.
 
This recording presents music from live performances dating from the 1950s, so the sound quality is therefore not necessarily of the highest order. It is still reasonably good and does not detract from the extremely high standard of music-making featured.
 
On the whole, these are fine performances, full of vitality and commitment, making this a very pleasing release strong in historic interest.
 
Em Marshall-Luck 

Previous review: Jonathan Woolf


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