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CD Review

Beecham Conducts

BBC Women's Chorus
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Thomas Beecham
BBC Legends BBCL4068-2 73m ADD
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The charisma of Sir Thomas Beecham was one of the unsurpassed glories of London concert life in the fifties. For those of us who could not be physically present at that time, the BBC are reissuing material from some legendary concerts that showed Sir Thomas at his very best on all counts. This is a 1954 relay consisting of Wagner, Delius and Bizet, three composers who benefited specially from the Beecham magic. The Venusberg Music from Tannhäuser is splendidly paced with just the right amount of bombast and aplomb appertained, thus the piece does not lose any of its character. The contribution of the BBC Women's chorus is also very fine whilst the orchestra play like any Bayreuth ensemble.

This 'Irmelin' arrangement is another Beecham 'specialty', a cocktail of music specially assembled by the conductor from the Danish opera. I couldn't actually comment much on Bizet's 'Arlésienne', fantastic stuff by Beecham and the RPO especially in the Farandole', white hot excitement at its best. After the customary speech, we are treated to Massenet's 'Last Sleep of the Virgin', a Beecham 'lollipop' that was the staple diet at the end of every concert conducted by the master.

BBC's remastering is adequate enough although the sound is not as clear as one would wish, this is 1954 after all. But this must not detract from the unique charm of this release that is another essential part of the BBC Beecham reissues.

Copyright © 2001, Gerald Fenech