Sony: Original Cbs Recordings

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Sony: Original CBS Recordings

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Sony has just re-released more archival Beecham fare from the English Columbia back catalogue. Much less familiar to collectors than Beecham’s recordings from widely exploited EMI sources, these mono transfers haven’t been subjected to excessive reprocessing.

That’s advantageous, particularly with this 1954 collection of BERLIOZ overtures (SMK 89807).

Le Carnaval Romain and King Lear featured beside Beecham’s 1951 Harold in Italy (with the great William Primrose as viola soloist) on an earlier Sony/CBS Masterworks Portrait CD, and on a rare Cedar-processed Theorema disc, which improved clarity, but compressed dynamic range.

Again, Primrose’s Harold might have usefully replaced some of the lesser-known overtures here, though Beecham’s accounts of Waverley, Les francs-juges, and his swaggering, salty Le corsaire are undeniably exhilarating.

Beecham’s DELIUS recordings for EMI, particularly his stereo remakes from the late Fifties, are widely considered definitive. But there were others of equal distinction, like this 1949 account of North Country Sketches (originally issued on 78s), formerly available on Sony Essential Classics with (among other things) the closing scene from Koanga.

This new compilation (SMK 89429) brings handsome compensation, though, with a complete recording of Appalachia from 1952.

The two MOZART discs afford other, less appealing insights into Beecham’s approach. The heavy-booted tread of the minuets, especially in the last two symphonies, wouldn’t be countenanced in today’s historically informed times, but there’s real verve and panache about the finales, even if No. 40’s is too mannered (SMK 89809).

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The Paris Symphony (No. 31) sits awkwardly beside the Requiem on the last of these Sony reissues (SMK 89808), but these earnest, carefully prepared accounts should please Beecham buffs.