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The Beecham Collection (Somm)

The Bartered Bride - Overture, Polka & Dance of the Comedians

Macbeth *- Act IV La luce langue; Act IV Gran scena del Sonnambulismo

Donna Diana - Overture

Manon Lescaut - Act II: Intermezzo

La Clemenza di Tito K621 - Overture

Eugene Onegin Act II: Waltz; Act III: Polonaise

Tannhäuser - Act III: Introduction
Das Rheingold †- Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla
* Margherita Grandi (soprano), Vera Terry (mezzo-soprano); Ernest Frank (bass) † Edith Furmedge, Margaret Field-Hyde (sopranos); Gwladys Garside (mezzo-soprano), Nancy Evans (contralto); Parry Jones, George Chitty (tenors); Paul Schöffler (baritone)
Various Orchestras conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham
SOMM-BEECHAM 9 Mono/ADD (73:45)

This edition of Somm's enterprising Beecham collection, although predominantly orchestral, is a compilation of music from operas. It includes three selections previously unissued, while the excerpts from Verdi's Macbeth are new to CD. These recordings were made in 1945 and 1947 and Beecham is heard conducting: the London Philharmonic, The Royal Philharmonic and the BBC Symphony Orchestras.

Beecham's contribution to the world of opera was, of course, inestimable. His financial support was generous, and he brought a unique ability and artistry to his conducting.

The concert opens with spirited performances of the Bartered Bride excerpts, alert and full of joie de vivre. In contrast, Margherita Grandi pulls out all the darkly dramatic stops as Lady Macbeth, wild and powerfully assertive with Beecham providing a brooding, atmospheric accompaniment. I was particularly pleased to note the inclusion of Reznicek's sparkling and thrilling Overture: Donna Diana - one of those pieces that is so familiar yet perhaps not so well-known by name. Truly a tingling factor piece, especially with the Beecham attack!

One of the unreleased items is Beecham's version of Manon Lescaut which sadly is not so successful with some rather erratic string playing that would have benefited from a little more legato - the recorded sound is below par too. On the other hand Beecham's renowned Mozart interpretation, full of humour and elegance, is evidenced in this reading of the Overture: La Clemenza di Tito. The Eugene Onegin Waltz and Polonaise sparkle.

Beecham's Wagner nights were special occasions. Both these excerpts have never been issued before. The Introduction to Act III Tannhäuser is brooding and intense before radiant climaxes, and the Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla is well paced with Schöffler a commanding Wotan. Beecham's climax is spectacular.

Thanks to Somm, this is an enterprising programme that has to be good news for Beecham enthusiasts.

Ian Lace

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