LABELS: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
WORKS: A History of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra presented by Andrew Sachs
PERFORMER: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with Thomas Beecham, Rudolf Kempe, Andre Previn, Charles Groves, Daniele Gatti
CATALOGUE NO: SP 023 (NTSC system; mono; 4:3 picture format)
The purpose of this DVD plus CD album is promotional, with the usual characteristics and drawbacks that this implies.
Anyone wanting to discover what really went on/goes on in this colourful musical institution will find their curiosity batted back to them by one personable member after another saying the safe-to-safe-ish things that, on the record, they would say, wouldn’t they?
The era of founder-maestro Sir Thomas Beecham is chronicled at some length, with contributions from RPO players from those great days such as Jack Brymer. But the tenure of the legendarily volcanic Antál Dorati is skimmed over within a few seconds.
That said, the orchestra’s penchant for periodic management upheavals is charted with some honesty. And as filmed during a recent American tour, the players’ individual and collective personality and trouping spirit come likeably across.
Ultra-familiar themes of London-based orchestral life emerge: the constant lack of funding and facilities, the need to tour and make records (including cheerfully mass-market ones) to survive, and the swashbuckling professional resilience that’s always capable of delivering remarkable performances.
Beecham’s incandescent musicianship is represented on the accompanying CD by Debussy and Gounod encores from a 1959 concert. Previn contributes a coruscating rendition of Walton’s Henry V suite, Rudolf Kempe the finale of Beethoven’s Eroica, Sir Charles Groves an over-symphonic, but typically warm-hearted Elgar Serenade; and Daniele Gatti finishes with a high-voltage Tchaikovsky Romeo and Juliet. Malcolm Hayes