JOHN IRELAND: 70th Birthday Concert 1949 – London Overture; Piano Concerto; The Forgotten Rite – Prelude; These things shall be – London Philharmonic Orchestra /Sir Adrian Boult – LPO SIR THOMAS BEECHAM = Pioneering Sound Recordings from the 1930s – LP

by | Nov 11, 2009 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

JOHN IRELAND: 70th Birthday Concert 1949 –  A London Overture; Piano Concerto in E flat major; The Forgotten Rite – Prelude;  These things shall be – Eileen Joyce, p. / London Philharmonic Orchestra /Sir Adrian Boult

LPO 0041, 68:53 **** [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:

Recorded by the BBC live at the Royal Albert Hall, London on 10 September 1949 at a concert given to celebrate John Ireland’s 70th birthday, this CD is one of several released over the last few years by the LPO celebrating the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s history.

Although these works are available in modern, stereo versions on Lyrita SRCD240-241 with Sir Adrian again conducting the LPO, there’s something of value here in these 70-year-old recordings. At this stage, the Royal Albert Hall had not yet had its “mushrooms” installed to diminish the very long reverberation time, but the BBC engineers did produce a quite detailed sound.

“A London Overture”, the orchestral of an earlier “Comedy Overture” for brass opens proceedings with a deeply felt performance, the opening mysterious passages coming over with all the foggy excitement of a London long gone now. The “Dilly….. Piccadilly” call of the tram or trolleybus conductor interrupts with suitable perkiness.  The LPO is on excellent form, its post-war renaissance due at least in part to that excellent conductor Eduard van Beinum.

The Piano Concerto is played here by Eileen Joyce who had made the first recording some years earlier on 14 January 1942 with Leslie Heward and the Hallé Orchestra. Her playing in 1949 is no less fine, suitably passionate in the big-bones passages. Here, unfortunately, the recording quality – especially of the piano itself – is not good, the first piano entry having a wooden tone, though matters do improve, and later at the start of the slow movement, there is a strange double sound to each note. The last movement is suitably energetic and the performance rightly gets a very enthusiastic reception from the audience.

“The Forgotten Rite” results from Ireland’s enthusiasm for the Channel Islands – he lived there for a while and had to leave very hurriedly in 1940 just before the Nazi German invasion – and is inspired by his interest in ancient myths and legends. “These Things Shall be” was commissioned for the BBC’s Coronation Concert of 1937 and is regally sung here by Redvers Llewellyn, a fine baritone in his time, and the effect is a performance very much of its time.  A mixture of his tone and occasional scooping up to a note show how some performance practices have changed in the last 70 years.

This very worthwhile issue comes at mid-price and is well worth investigating even if not a first choice for the repertoire.

SIR THOMAS BEECHAM = Pioneering Sound Recordings from the 1930s – MOZART / DELIUS  RIMSKY-KORSAKOV – London Philharmonic Orchestra / Sir Thomas Beecham

LPO 0040; 75:17 *** [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:

This generous programme will be of great interest to those interested in the history of recording. There are examples of very early use of magnetic tape, in music recorded live by BASF in Ludwigshafen during a tour to Germany by Beecham and the LPO in 1936.  Alan Blumlein’s experiments in binaural recording are fascinating and we get a sizeable excerpt from 1934 of Mozart’s 41st to compare with EMI’s mono recording.

The tape recordings preserve the live atmosphere of the occasion, and sound fuller than one might expect. There are odd faults, expected really, due to the experimental nature of the technology. [There was a similar historical LP/cassette of some of these selections from Philips, including comparisons of before and after AC bias of the recording head was developed, which greatly reduced distortions. Try listening to the two-channel selections on headphones for best binaural effect…Ed.]

This is a valuable piece of recording history.

Mozart: Symphony No. 39 in E flat major, K.543 (excerpts)
Delius: On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring
Rimsky-Korsakov: Suite from ‘The Golden Cockerel’ (excerpts)
Recorded live during a concert at BASF Feierabendhaus, Ludwigshafen, Germany (19/11/1936)

Mozart: Symphony No. 41 in C major, K.551 (Jupiter) Abbey Road (19/3/1934)
Mozart: Symphony No. 41 – Alan Blumlein’s stereo tests (19/3/1934)
Binaural/Stereo test by Alan Blumlein: ‘Walking, Talking’ (15/12/1933)

— Peter Joelson


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