Sir Thomas Beecham conducts Sibelius

Thomas Beecham conducts Sibelius

The ARIADNE 5013 release of a portion of SOMM’s ground-breaking The Beecham Collection which altogether spans 24 volumes, many of the compositions with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is just now being released. It includes the only known live recording of Sir Thomas conducting Sibelius’s Symphony No.1 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and Sibelius’ Scènes historiques. The disc has been meticulously curated by Jon Tolansky, the original founder of the Music Performance Research Centre, now renamed Music Preserved. The First Symphony heard here comes from a live performance in the 1952 Edinburgh International Festival.

Sibelius’s Fourth and Sixth Symphonies, and early recordings dating from 1946 featuring, among other major works, Mozart’s Symphony No.40, and Schumann’s Piano Concerto, with Moura Lympany  as soloist are also part of The Beecham Collection.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1946 by Beecham to inject new energy and new ideas into British orchestral life. Cantankerous, opinionated, self-righteous, prone to quarrels, capricious in his tastes, happily trading the whole of J.S. Bach for one act of Massenet’s Manon, disparaging of other conductors, Sir Thomas was also a passionate advocate of the music of some composers – Sibelius and Mozart, above many other – and a formidable technician at the podium. Both feared and yet deeply admired by many of his musicians- though not loved by any – Sir Thomas left a memorable legacy leading the Royal Philharmonic, the Hallé Orchestra and the Liverpool Philharmonic in Great Britain, and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra  in America.

The live performance faithfully caught here, is emotional, muscular, forceful, sparse in subtlety though abundant in bristling energy. In short, this is a must hear, must have recording.

Rafael de Acha      ALL ABOUT THE ARTS