Beecham conducts The ABC Blue Network Concerts, Vol. 1 – Pristine Audio

A previously unissued live broadcast from NYC by Sir Thomas Beecham enjoys the lively brio we expect.

Beecham conducts The ABC Blue Network Concerts, Vol. 1 = NICOLAI: Overture to The Merry Wives of Windsor; ELGAR: Serenade for String in e minor, Op. 20; HANDEL (arr. Beecham): The Great Elopement; DELIUS: The Walk to the Paradise Garden; J. STRAUSS II: Voices of Spring Waltz, Op. 410 – Blue Network Sym. Orch./ Sir Thomas Beecham – Pristine Audio PASC 461, 54:43 [avail. in var. formats from www.pristineclassical.com] ****:

In his explanatory notes, producer and editor Andrew Rose traces the history of the Red and Blue Networks, subsidiaries of the original NBC ownership, forced by FCC regulations to break up a possible monopoly of radio networks. In June 1945 the Blue Network became the ABC Network; prior, in April, Sir Thomas Beecham had accepted a contract for four concerts: “Sir Thomas Beecham conducting a Symphonic Orchestra.”

Likely, these responsive players derived from assorted members of both the New York Philharmonic and NBC Symphony. This concert of 7 April 1945 had been preserved on acetate 33 rpm records. The broadcasts originated at the Ritz (now Walter Kerr) Theater, 219 W. 48th Street, in Manhattan.

Milton Cross does the introductory honors for this broadcast. The popular “lollipop” by Nicolai, his Overture to The Merry Wives of Windsor, enjoys an easy brio and aerial resonance. Of more innate note, we have some live Elgar, his youthful Serenade for Strings, whose lovely Larghetto movement elicits applause for its own sake. An incident on the life of the British dramatist Sheridan gave rise to Sir Thomas Beecham’s selected suite from Handel, The Great Elopement, here in its first radio performance. The sonics for this AM radio broadcast seem a mite constricted at the top – I mean the horns – but the bass registers and the quality of perkiness in the ABC strings and winds more than warrants our musical diversion. A passing hornpipe frolics and huffs with “Rule Britannia” not much hidden in its figures.

Rare is the Beecham pops concert that does not contain at least one item from his favored Frederick Delius. The composer’s The Walk to the Paradise Garden (1906) serves as an orchestral addition to his opera A Village Romeo and Juliet (1901). The locale will provide the doomed lovers an eternal source of solace after their love-death. We hear more than a fair shade of Wagner’s “Forest Murmurs” as the music evolves into the lovers’ main theme, here set in a radiant B Major. With the alternately thunderous and lilting Voices of Spring – one of the few Strauss waltzes he led on records as far back as 1933 with the London Philharmonic (CAX 8565) – Sir Thomas concludes a thoroughly charming hour of music that “leaves the memory with difficulty.” We from time to time hear Beecham’s guttural encouragements to his spry ensemble.

—Gary Lemco

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