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The Beecham Collection: Handel, R. Strauss, J.S. Bach & Ravel

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Catalogue No: SOMM-BEECHAM 31
Release Date: 07/01/2011
Number of Discs: 1
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The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham

Recordings taken from live performances at the Royal Festival Hall on Tuesday 18th and Thursday 20th January 1955

Source material: MONO 78rpm acetate

SOMM’s Beecham Collection of Live Performances acquires yet another gem with this unique Beecham/ Furtwängler release which will be available in December. The disc contains works from two concerts which the conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler was to have conducted at the Royal Festival Hall in January 1955. Sadly he died in November 1954 and Sir Thomas willingly undertook to conduct these with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in memory of their friendship and as an affectionate tribute to the great conductor.

Sir Thomas Beecham had known Wilhelm Furtwängler since the 1920s and by the 1930s this association had grown into friendship, each playing host when visiting the other’s country, in 1936 planning the Covent Garden 1937 Coronation season together in Furtwängler’s garden, having first worked together at the Royal Opera House in 1935 when each conducted two performances of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.

Sir Thomas had begun to make his mark in Germany since taking his Beecham Symphony Orchestra to Berlin as early as December 1912 and by 1930 his reputation as a conductor was well known to the German music establishment.  On 29th.January 1930 he gave his first concert with Furtwängler’s Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and scored an immediate success with both orchestra and public, his reading of Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben (with the orchestra’s leader, Henry Holst) being highly praised in a programme which also included works by Elgar, Mozart and Delius

Beecham returned to Furtwängler’s Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra again in November 1937 and late February, early March 1938 to record Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte for HMV in the Beethovensaal, returning home to other engagements.

For January 1955 a visit of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra with Furtwängler had been planned by The Orchestral Concerts Society Ltd. directed by the agents Harold Holt Ltd. and with input from Sir Thomas, for two concerts in the Royal Festival Hall.  Sadly, on 30th.November 1954, Furtwängler died in Baden-Baden.  In the event, Beecham willingly undertook to conduct on both dates with his Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and to play the two programmes which Furtwängler was to have conducted, even though they contained a number of works which were not familiar Beecham fare

The programme for Tuesday, 18th.January was Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No.3 in G, Strauss: Tone Poem, Don Juan (Op.20), Ravel: Rapsodie Espagnole and Brahms: Symphony No.1 in C minor, while that on Thursday, 20th.January was Handel: Concerto Grosso in d minor (Op.6 No. 10), Beethoven: Symphony No.3 in Eb (Op.55) (Eroica), Richard Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel, Barber: Second Essay for Orchestra and Wagner: Overture, Tannhäuser.

The orchestra was led by Arthur Leavins and Beecham’s strong team of principals tending their well-known section members were in evidence: Oscar Rosen (second violins), Frederick Riddle (violas), John Kennedy (violoncellos), Edmund Chesterman (double basses), Gerald Jackson (flutes), Terence MacDonagh (oboes), Jack Brymer (clarinets), Gwydion Brooke (bassoons), Alan Civil (horns), Richard Walton (trumpets), Sidney Langston (trombones), Francis White (tuba), Lewis Pocock (timpani), Stephen Whittaker (percussion), Denis Vaughan (celeste) and Tina Bonifacio (harps).  As Sir Thomas indicated to his administrative assistant, Felix Aprahamian, he wished these two tribute occasions to be of the highest possible standard and this becomes apparent throughout these deeply felt performances by Sir Thomas and the RPO.

On This Recording

  1. Concerto Grosso: I. Overture
  2. Concerto Grosso: II. Allegro
  3. Concerto Grosso: III. Air: Lento
  4. Concerto Grosso: IV. Allegro
  5. Concerto Grosso: V. Allegro
  6. Concerto Grosso: VI. Allegro moderato
  7. Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche (Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks): Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche (Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks), Op. 28, TrV 171
  8. Brandenburg Concerto No. 3: I. Allegro moderato
  9. Brandenburg Concerto No. 3: II. Adagio
  10. Brandenburg Concerto No. 3: III. Allegro
  11. Don Juan: Don Juan, Op. 20, TrV 156
  12. Rapsodie espagnole: I. Prelude a la nuit
  13. Rapsodie espagnole: II. Malagueña
  14. Rapsodie espagnole: III. Habanera
  15. Rapsodie espagnole: IV. Feria