The third of the Blue Network concerts by Beecham restores the sense of musical festivity and stylistic brilliance.
Beecham – The ABC Blue Network Concerts, Vol. 3 = MOZART: Symphony No. 31 in D Major, K. 297; HANDEL: Piano Concerto in A Major; CHABRIER: Espana – Betty Humby, p./ Blue Network Sym. Orch./ Sir Thomas Beecham – Pristine Audio PASC 477, 54:40 [var. formats avail. from www.pristineclassical.com] ****:
The concert by Sir Thomas Beecham and the “Blue Network Symphony Orchestra” of 21 April 1945 certainly assumes a more optimistic tone than that which occurred as President Franklin Roosevelt had been laid to rest. The high energy of the occasion bursts forth immediately, with Mozart’s 1778 D Major “Paris” Symphony, expressly conceived to parody the musical conceits of the day, such as the so-called premier coup d’archet, or the Parisian version of unison Mannheim rocket figures at a symphonic opening. The addition of trumpets and tympani – and the clarinets – increases the often ceremonial pomp of the performance. Throughout the performance, Beecham emphasizes the suave grandeur Mozart controls in this, his largest symphonic structure in his oeuvre at the time. The virtuoso syncopations of the last movement move with a lithe suppleness that makes this rendition a worthy companion to Beecham’s commercial endeavor with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Beecham himself arranged various Handel melodies and tropes to create the four-movement Piano Concerto in A, expressly for his new wife, Betty Humby. Handel emerges as a Romantic, his textures lush and flavored by all sorts of nice touches between the keyboard and the woodwinds, especially in the middle movement Romanza. The first movement Chaconne exploits a bass pattern we know from Edwin Fischer’s early recording. The Menuet movement, staid and galant, embodies the soul of aristocratic elegance. Despite the “popular media” version of Handel proffered by the Beechams, the effect has its moments of intimacy and elated fervor. With the Finale’s glad spirits, we have a concertante pastiche of Handel pleasantry. Humby performs with a speed and lithe grace that suggest she would have been a natural acolyte of the Mendelssohn concertos.
Beecham called Chabrier’s Espana “the best of quasi-Spanish music yet written.” In one Leonard Bernstein’s Harvard lectures, he pointed out the “poetic,” architectural and symmetrical features in Chabrier’s brilliant scoring for this “Rhapsodie.” The Blue Network horns and winds, as they had been in the Mozart, project a brisk, alert sonority, fresh and vivid, as tends to be Chabrier’s wont. At the fiery conclusion, the audience roar clearly expresses their recognition of a true “lollipop.” The restored sound by Andrew Rose raises the level of sonority well above anything like AM radio.
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