LABELS: BBC Legends
WORKS: Symphony No. 3 in D
PERFORMER: RPO/Thomas Beecham
CATALOGUE NO: BBCL 4044-2 ADD mono
This disc offers a memento from Thomas Beecham’s later years (complete with the national anthem and a brief broadcast speech), and will be treasured by all who appreciate the irrepressible joie de vivre that is this conductor’s trademark. It cannot be a first recommendation for any of the works presented, if only because the reasonably balanced monophonic sound has its moments of distortion and wiriness. The playing, too, is not always immaculate: ensemble takes a while to settle at the beginning of the Mendelssohn Symphony and goes awry at a ritardando near mid-point in the finale of the Schubert.
Nevertheless, there’s a great deal in these performances that lifts the spirits. No one else seems able to build such vivacious swing and momentum in passages like Tchaikovsky’s ‘Waltz of the Flowers’ or the finale of Schubert’s Third (here noticeably more winged in tempo and character than in Beecham’s famous commercial recording made around the same time). But the Beecham touch is more than this: it also involves exaggeratedly articulated rhythms and an uncommonly wide range of dynamic shading. The latter feature is heard at its most eloquent in the slow movement of the Mendelssohn Symphony, while the second subject in the Schubert’s first movement and the March from the Tchaikovsky are only two among many examples of the former. Beecham’s outsized musical personality may be inimitable, but the reflection of it provided by these recordings contains salutary reminders of the tools for creating similar wit, elegance and liveliness. David Breckbill