Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

The Beecham Collection - on SOMM

George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759) (arr. BEECHAM)
Suite de Ballet (The Origin of Design)
The Gods Go A' Begging
* (excerpts)
Piano Concerto in A major
Lady Betty Humby Beecham (piano)
Sir Thomas Beecham conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra *
SOMM-BEECHAM 7 [74:52]
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That Sir Thomas Beecham revered Handel is very evident from the loving care that he invests in these historic recordings from the 1930s and '40s.

Beecham compiled the suites on this recording largely from Handel's stage works. The opening Suite de Ballet (The Origin of Design) was recorded in December 1932. The sound is very acceptable barring a few scratches and hisses here and there which do not seriously mar one's enjoyment. Beecham delivers a reading that is poised and vivacious. The rich textures are finely articulated and every movement is a little gem. I would particularly mention the stately elegance and grace of the 'Ensemble'; the plaintive beauty of the 'Musette' and the thrilling fanfares of Battaglia.

The Gods Go A'Begging excerpts are presented in two collections excerpts recorded on separate occasions: the first collection of nine movements from 1933 to 1938, and the second collection of six movements in June 1949. From the first collection the Musette with its tolling bells and idyllic atmosphere is especially magical while the 'Tambourino' has a carefree rustic charm. The second collection has an exquisite Larghetto and a Gavotte that sounds quite Scottish in its outer parts with a captivating inner section with lovely material for violin and harp.

But the most interesting work here is Beecham's arrangement of the Piano Concerto in A major which he put together for his wife Lady Betty Humby Beecham. She gave the first performance under Sir Thomas with a chamber orchestra in New York Town Hall on 15th March 1944. It is a great pity that there have been so few performances of the piece for it is a very engaging, tuneful work. The opening movement has richly decorated material that is stately and proud, urbane and witty. The Romanza has ethereal beauty, the Minuet is charming and the Finale full of carefree jollity. The Concerto was recorded in 1945.

A delicious confection for all Beecham and Handel lovers.

Ian Lace

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