Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Concerto in D, Op.77* [40:33]
Symphony No.2 in D, Op.73 [37:43]
Isaac Stern (violin)*
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Thomas Beecham
rec. 1951 ADD/mono*, 1958/59 ADD stereo.
Download or stream only
Beecham conducts Brahms
is another reissue on which Beulah restore elements of the Beecham legacy.
Though he was not best known for his Brahms, this reissue, containing
the Violin Concerto, with Isaac Stern and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
from 1951 and Symphony No.2, again with the RPO in stereo in 1958/59, is
well worth considering.
Brahms’ first symphony still bears the marks of the composer’s
attempts to escape from the shadow of Beethoven, but in the second he became
more characteristically his own man. In live performance Beecham reportedly
brought the house down with this symphony and, while the recording may not
quite capture those qualities, it is rather special, with the music almost
jumping off the speakers. First released on HMV ASD348, it was reissued on
HQS1143, which I owned. I’m glad to have it back, but you should buy it for the sake of Beecham’s Brahms rather than as the
benchmark for the symphony per se.
Klemperer’s rather craggier approach would be my classic recording from the
early stereo era (Warner 4043382, 4 CDs, around £15.50, or Beulah 2PD98,
with Tragic Overture – from
Qobuz). Or there’s Pierre Monteux, with the Vienna Philharmonic in 1959, coupled
with his classic 1958 recording of Elgar’s Enigma Variations with
the LSO (Beulah 1PDR39: Recording of the Month –
: download from
Ultimately, Beecham makes the music a little too idiosyncratic, but the
reissue is worth having just for the energetic end of the finale and for
those little touches, here and elsewhere, where the conductor’s
fingerprints are much in evidence. The RPO play out of their skin, as they
always did for him, even though his rehearsal technique seems to have been
minimal, at least on the basis of the recording that was made of it, where
he spends most of the time joking.
The Violin Concerto, though recorded by EMI, was released in 1955 on
Philips ABL3023, and was briefly available from Sony with the Sibelius
Violin Concerto. It remains available with no coupling on G0100042656904,
download only and, at over £11, it’s more expensive in lossless form than
the Beulah, which offers much more music. Download the Beulah from
in lossless format for £7.99 – the same price that others charge for mp3.
The very slow approach to the first movement means that it’s never going to
be my favourite – once you hear Heifetz, a slow tempo here just will not do
– but I know that many will warmly welcome its return. In fact, I must admit
that I was won over much more than I expected to be; if anyone is going to
drag me away from Heifetz and Reiner, Stern and Beecham could do it.
The Violin Concerto sounds much as you would expect of 1951’s best mono in
a good transfer – more than tolerable. The Symphony comes in decent early
stereo, actually recorded on several dates between November 1958 and
November 1959, not 1961 as stated. It sounds a trifle shrill on the top
line, but that was true of the original release and, as I recall, of the
HQS reissue. The transfer of the symphony on CD3 of Beecham The Later Tradition is rather smoother, but that entails
purchase of a 9-hour set (Warner 9186112:
– now download only, around £29 in lossless sound; no booklet).
Beecham conducts Brahms
doesn’t represent him at his very best, though his many fans will want to add
this to their collection. But do remember to save your pennies for another
Beulah reissue: Beecham conducts French Music: CHABRIER España with the LPO (1938), BIZET Carmen Suite with the Columbia Symphony
Orchestra (1949), FRANCK Le Chasseur maudit and MÉHUL La Chasse du jeune Henri Overture with the
RPO (1951-54) and MASSENET Cendrillon Waltz and FAURÉ Dolly Suite, Op.56, with the Orchestre
National de France in stereo from 1959/61. (13PDR4 [71:49]).