Beecham in Seattle, Vol. 2 = DVORAK: Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104; MENDELSSOHN: Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 56 “Scottish” – Mischel Cherniavsky, cello/Seattle Symphony Orchestra/Sir Thomas Beecham
Pristine Audio PASC238, 77:21 [Avail. in various formats at www.pristineclassical.com] ***:
Ever the small world, that of classical music, especially since I interviewed conductor Fyodor Cherniavsky of the Atlanta Community Orchestra some years ago at WMRE-FM, only vaguely aware of his father Mischel’s strong career as a cellist and certainly clueless that Mischel (1893-1982) had performed the Dvorak Cello Concerto with Sir Thomas Beecham in Seattle (18 October 1943). The surviving acetates appear to have been preserved by Beecham himself, who wanted a record of his “emergency” appearances with the Seattle organization.
The otherwise lovely performance of the Dvorak Concerto’s first movement suffers because the performance time of the first movement went beyond the recording medium available, and we miss sorely the last bars of the opening Allegro. Beecham (1879-1961) had always been a strong advocate for Dvorak’s music, and we still await a healthy restoration of the Symphonic Variations, Op. 78. The interplay of woodwinds and strings, supporting the fluid line from Cherniavsky, come through in resonant detail–given the period of their inscription–just listen to the dialogue of oboe, bassoon, and cello in the Adagio movement. A touch marcato, the last movement Allegro moderato proceeds with a chugging resolute energy, the martial spirit dominant, though Cherniavsky’s instrument digs into the sweet melodies with affectionate finesse. The secondary theme slows down even more, allowing the cello and flute to engage in hearty dialogue in broad strokes. Again, the bassoon makes his presence felt in the middle section, along with an insistent tympani whose tattoo marks the transition to the presto section and Cherniavsky’s lovely rising scale passages and trills. With the entry of the concertmaster, the piece becomes a wonderful “double concerto” comparable to that of Brahms. The coda literally explodes, deciso, and the audience erupts instantaneously.
Beecham had led the Mendelssohn Scottish Symphony a week prior (11 October 1943), and so we have a work Beecham did not consign to posterity via commercial records. Drama and lyricism find a happy balance in Beecham’s rather bucolic account, wherein the first movement basks in Mendelssohn’s highland harmonies. The Seattle brass make their presence felt, and the tempo picks up as we enter the development section of movement one, bits of thunder and Scottish militancy come to the fore. Clearly we hear echoes from the Beethoven Pastoral amidst the clamor in the braes. The thick and ferocious contrapuntal passages suffer another cut from the recording process, just prior to the soft coda–damn! The clash of the highland clans permeates the Vivace no n troppo, a wild scherzo in the Toscanini tradition, to say the least. Here is the unbuttoned Beecham we love, the raconteur in music whose every nuance proves thoroughly idiomatic–until another cut despoils our focus. The forceful Adagio must have been truly impressive in concert, for it resonates with melody and vibrant colors even among the scattered ruins of what is a potent rendition. Again, Beecham’s interior lines swell with pride of place, the rhythmic flow elastic so as to transition naturally to the martial aspects of the progression. The contrapunctus in the air becomes rich and frothy, intent, manic. The war march hails us, beckoning our participation–and even without us, the campaign rises again. The last pages, pure fire, incite us to demand a complete document from that exclusive collector who might have hoarded it. Else, it belongs to the gods.