BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 2 in D Major; Symphony No. 7 in A Major; Mass in C Major; The Ruins of Athens — Jennifer Vyvyan, soprano/ Monica Sinclair, contralto/Richard Lewis, tenor/Marian Nowakowski, bass/ Beecham Choral Society/Royal Phil./Beecham — EMI

by | Aug 31, 2005 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 36; Symphony No. 7 in
A Major, Op. 92; Mass in C Major, Op. 86; The Ruins of Athens, Op. 113

Jennifer Vyvyan, soprano/Monica Sinclair, contralto/Richard Lewis,
tenor/Marian Nowakowski, bass/ Beecham Choral Society/Royal
Philharmonic/Sir Thomas Beecham

EMI Classics 7243 5 86504 2 (2 CDs)  67:53; 64:45 ****:

Inscribed 1957-1959, this happy set contains high-voltage Beethoven
under the direction of the irrepressible Sir Thomas Beecham
(1879-1961), captured in very good sound for the period. Collectors
will certainly relish the energy and sweet gloss the Royal Philharmonic
exhibits in the two symphonies. For the D Major, Beecham instills in
the Larghetto a particular fluency and luxuriant breadth of phrase. The
finale fairly crackles with irreverent wit and verve, and we can savor
Beethoven’s taunting of the very Classical traditions to which he owed
his musical roots.  The Beethoven Seventh was a Beecham staple to
which he brought an athletic, vigorous dignity. While one critic —
Virgil Thomson — called the Allegretto in A Minor the most tragic music
Beethoven ever wrote, Beecham makes it a mesmeric ballet movement in
martial dactyls. The Scherzo and final Allegro con brio enjoy the
unbuttoned joie de vivre which Beecham could unleash when his absolute
control over a studio recording was in full gear.

The Mass in C (1807) is still a relative rarity both on disc and in the
concert hall. Its aggressive outbursts in the Gloria and Credo confirm
the vehemence of Beethoven‚s faith and shatter the musical precedents
he found in Haydn. Jennifer Vyvyan’s soprano soars even as Richard
Lewis intones most gracefully. The Ruins of Athens (1817) is a sort of
Masonic singspiel (in six selections) with an antiquated setting of
marble gods and goddesses who find Athens in the possession of the
Turks; and so they flee to Pest, where there is a new dispensation of
freedom. The airy choruses, the Turkish March, and the Technicolor
finale (on which Liszt opened his own Fantasy) find in Beecham a
rollicking good humor and a bravura performance of first rank.
Alternately rustic, earthy, impassioned, and exalted, these discs mark
the meeting of kindred spirits.

–Gary Lemco