Sym 41/Clar Cto/Bassoon Cto Original recording remastered
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|1. Sym No.41 in C, K.551 'Jupiter': I. Allegro Vivace - RPO/Sir Thomas Beecham|
|2. Sym No.41 in C, K.551 'Jupiter': II. Andante Cantabile - RPO/Sir Thomas Beecham|
|3. Sym No.41 in C, K.551 'Jupiter': III. Minuet (Allegretto) - RPO/Sir Thomas Beecham|
|4. Sym No.41 in C, K.551 'Jupiter': IV. Molto Allegro - RPO/Sir Thomas Beecham|
|5. Cl Con in A, K.622: I. Allegro - Jack Brymer|
|6. Cl Con in A, K.622: II. Adagio - Jack Brymer|
|7. Cl Con in A, K.622: III. Rondo (Allegro) - Jack Brymer|
|8. Bn Con in B flat, K.191: I. Allegro - Gwydion Brooke|
|9. Bn Con in B flat, K.191: II. Andante Ma Adagio - Gwydion Brooke|
|10. Bn Con in B flat, K.191: III. Rondo (Tempo Di Minuetto) - Gwydion Brooke|
Sir Thomas Beecham was always known as a dedicated, even pioneering, exponent of Mozart's music. These recordings were made toward the end of Beecham's life, in 1957, '58, and '59 (he died in 1961), by which time he had become inclined to introduce certain "improvements" into Mozart's scores. For example, in the "Jupiter" Symphony, which he had recorded twice before, he added instruments in salient passages, changed registers, and muted the strings only at the end of the slow movement. More surprising here, however, is the absence of Beecham's famous imaginativeness. The performances are predominantly on the slow side: stately, deliberate, stolid. The symphony is rather cool, prosaic, and foursquare, with a lot of accents. The Minuet is not only slow, but lethargic and a bit coarse; the Finale loud and aggressive, though the counterpoint is clear.
The soloists in the concertos are the orchestra's principal players, whom Beecham always liked to showcase. In the great, late Clarinet Concerto, Jack Brymer's tone is mellow and beautiful, his playing easy and smooth as butter, but also a little stiff and lacking in poetry. The slow movement is extremely slow, but he sustains both breath and tone without strain. The Finale is best: lively, humorous, and varied. The much earlier Bassoon Concerto is less sophisticated, especially in its orchestration, but it is a charming, vibrant work. Gwydion Brooke revels in its sprightliness and virtuosity and uses his own brilliant cadenzas. The slow movement is simple and lovely; the Finale is a set of variations. Beecham accompanies with meticulous care, and there's a sense of spontaneous collaboration between soloists and orchestra. --Edith Eisler
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EMI has done a fine job remastering the late-50s sonics. They are still a trifle thin on top and tubby on the bottom (much like listeners of my age). Have no fear that these performances are dull or that Reginald Kell, the solist in the clarinet concerto, plays stiffly, as the Amazon reviewer claims. He doesn't attack his phrasing with extroverted energy (the current style) but adheres to Beecham's smooth, laid-back approach. In the bassoon concerto Gwydion Brooke's ability to make his instrument sing and chuckle by turns is a pure delight.
I think EMI meant for Mozart's Symphony No. 41 "Jupiter" to be the main draw on this entry, but, in fact, the accompanying concertos actually take the honors. Beecham had championed Mozart for most of the twentieth century, practically playing his music before the composer became the household name he is today, and Beecham recorded the "Jupiter" twice before this 1957 rendering. The previous two performances had been in monaural, and reviewers have said they were better than the final, stereo version we get here.
I don't know; I haven't heard Beecham's earlier recordings. What we have here, though, is a very precise, very elegant, very noble interpretation, as though Beecham were trying hard to emphasize that this last of Mozart's symphonies was, indeed, his greatest. The minor quibble I have, however, is that I hear little of the Beecham zest showing through, and the result seems somewhat staid for this conductor. He takes the Minuet, for example, at an especially slow tempo; yet it does serve to dramatize the fiery finale the maestro serves up. This performance wouldn't necessarily be on my list of top-five "Jupiter" recordings, but it deserves a listen.
In any case, the Clarinet Concerto and the Bassoon Concerto are different matters. Here we find the old Beecham magic on full display. Jack Brymer's clarinet sounds particularly felicitous in the first of the concertos, and Gwydion Brooke's bassoon work in the second concerto is equally top-notch.
Producers Lawrance Collingwood and Victor Olof and engineer Robert Becket recorded the symphony at Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London, in 1957. Producers Victor Olaf and Peter Andry and engineers Paul Vavasseur and Neville Boyling recorded the clarinet piece at Salle Wagram, Paris and Abbey Road Studio No. 1 in 1958. And producer Peter Andry and engineer Neville Boyling recorded the bassoon piece at Abbey Road Studio No. 1 in 1958-59. The sound in all three of these works appears smoother and more refined than the same recordings in earlier CD and LP versions, the sound in the concertos perhaps a trifle smoother and fuller than in the symphony. This disc replaces my old CD of the two concertos alone, so the "Jupiter" is like icing on the cake. And did I mention the disc contains a few seconds less than eighty minutes of material? That's certainly of value.
John J. Puccio