Finally, the Beecham recording is back!
Rev. Ben Cox | Orlando, Florida | 11/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When I was at university, I studied under Geoffrey Gilbert, the first flautist of the RPO under Beecham, and I first heard this recording when it appeared on vinyl on the Seraphim label, during the time I studied with him. Mr Gilbert told me an interesting story. He said that this recording was actually a rehearsal, prepatory to a recording, and that Sir Thomas had taken the tapes home to review and prepare for the recording sessions. It seems that before the recording could be finished, he died! Well, if that's true this is an amazing recording. It is, to my ear, the most expansive, opulent recording of Strauss ever made. Sir Thomas lets the horn section loose on the big lines and the result is almost orgasmic! Wave upon wave of huge sound and emotion are loosed upon the listener and it sometimes is almost unbearable! If you've never heard Heldenleben, listen to this one and you'll never go to another.
Two unique recordings restored to the catalog
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 12/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Beecham was associated with Strauss's music for many decades, having conducted Ein Heldenleben first in 1910. In the aftermath of World War II he invited the very old composer to London as a gesture of musical reconciliation. Out of this Strauss Festival came two unique recordings, a famous Ein Heldenleben and somewhat less renowned Don Quixote. It's a great joy to find the latter on this twofer, in really excellent mono sound. Together, Tortelier and Beecham give us a fleet, puckish account that's quite unique. It's as light as Mozart, as whimsical as Mendelssohn's fairy music from A Midsummer Night's Dream. I can't imagine anyone not being instantly infatuated. We haven't had such a mercurial recording in the sixty years since.
EMI doesn't couple it with the 1947 Heldenleben, however, but Beecham's remake in stereo from 1958. On its release, old-timers grumbled that it wasn't as lithe and swift as the first version, but in this case Beecham had no competition but himself. On its own terms, this fresh, buoyant reading is almost as revelatory as the Quixote and much better recorded, of course. Again I can't imagine anyone not falling instantly in love with it. Sad as the decline of the classical-music CD may be, at least we get to luxuriate in hundreds of reissues a year, including this superlative one.
The riches don't stop there, however. Beecham set down a suite from Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme at those same sessions in 1947, and here it is, restored with its mate. The mono sound is fine, and Beecham's touch is feather-weight and elegant. Finally there is a mid-Sixties Metamorphosen from Barbirolli and the New Philharmonia, which once came coupled with Schoenberg's Pelleas and Melisande, both quite unexpected from this conductor. It's a fine recording, more soft-grained and romantically free than the masterful ones from Karajan, but very listenable and typically heartfelt."
Maybe The Best Ever!
Roger W. Wood | Jacksonville, Florida | 08/18/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I thought I had heard thirty or so different performances of Ein Heldenleben. That was before I retrieved the cd performance of the old Seraphim LP I used to own and relistened to one Sir Thomas Beecham. I have never heard a greater performance of this music than this. (I think I own at least a dozen) Sound is also excellent. In fact, the more I go back and retrieve performances by Sir Thomas, the more I wonder about my previous judgments.
I used to think that Arturo Toscanini was maybe the greatest conductor of the 20th century. I gave him that because of his overall excellence. Not because I liked this or that interpretation, but because, if you listen carefully, everything he did was just excellent. Perfection is not always available, but excellence is, and let's give the praise where it's due! The man was just great, and I admire his work so much. I also love his anti-Fascist and anti-Nazi defiance too. It took a man to witness the way he did during that era, giving the IQ to Mussolini and Hitler. Yes, perhaps Toscanini is that man.
However...every time I hear another recording by Sir Thomas, I am not so sure. This performance (a practice tape, I hear)is just one example of the sensational performances by Beecham. After hearing Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique with the National French Radio Orchestra (where I am sure one Colin Davis got his model for conducting the same -- if you go back further, one can easily see why Sir Thomas was medaled so by the French government for his interpretations of French music!), Bizet's Carmen, Puccini's La Boheme, etc., I am not so sure that Sir Thomas Beecham is not the greatest conductor of the 2oth Century. This man was just great! And he conducted so many diverse composers: Rimsky Korsakov, Grieg, Delius, Williams, Beethoven, some in stereo and a lot more others in decent mono.
I just can't wait to discover more of his re-released cds. In the meantime, if you love Ein Heldenleben like I do, you better scurry to find this great cd where you can and get it quickly. Amazon will show you where to find it. Then, when you get it, make a copy and put the original in your safe deposit box. Run!