Sir Thomas Beecham Vol.2 | ICA Classics ICAC5158

Sir Thomas Beecham Vol.2


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Label: ICA Classics

Cat No: ICAC5158

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 3

Genre: Orchestral

Release Date: 3rd May 2019



Rob Cowan wrote in Gramophone about the first volume (ICAC5148) featuring Sir Thomas Beecham: ‘numerous live Beecham releases have appeared over the last few years, some more successful than others (in both recording and performance terms), but this collection is certainly one of the best’. This second volume continues with rare performances which as far as is known have never been made available before covering a period from 1952 to 1959.

French music was a favourite of Beecham and this set is made up of music by Chabrier, Franck, Grétry, Lalo, Méhul and Saint-Saëns, all of which he recorded in the studio but when Beecham was caught ‘live’, it often showed the mercurial side of his character and no performance was ever the same. As David Patmore said in an essay: ‘What Beecham sought at all times was freshness and his unpredictability was one way of achieving this’. The Franck is played for all it’s worth while the Méhul, rather than being performed as a period performance, is treated as a romantic composer in a big-boned approach. The Lalo Symphony with the RPO has a greater intensity than the French studio recording which came a few months later.

Beecham’s intimate relationship with the music of Delius is well-known. Here we have the North Country Sketches in a 1959 studio recording but in a different order for the middle two movements compared to the 1949 recording. 19th-century Russian composers were another favourite, and Balakirev’s Symphony no.1 featured frequently during the 1950s. BBC Legends issued the BBCSO live recording from 20 December 1956 while this RPO version comes from 23 August of the same year, never issued before.

Beecham’s authentic Strauss is caught in this 1952 broadcast of the Suite from Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, his studio version being much earlier in 1947.

This release has been sourced from the Richard Itter Archive of ‘live’ BBC recordings. The collection is very important for collectors because it has never been on the market before. Following the archive’s launch in October 2017 with successive releases featuring Beecham, Böhm, Cantelli, Casadesus, Karajan, Menuhin, Monteux, du Pré, Klemperer, Rostropovich and Walter, it has received universal praise from both the classical media and record collectors for the excellent sound and performances.


- Gwendoline Overture
- BBCSO (BBC Studios, Maida Vale, 26/11/53)
Franck - Le Chasseur maudit
- RPO (Royal Festival Hall, London 22/11/54)
Grétry - Amire et Azore Suite
- RPO (Usher Hall, Edinburgh 23/8/56)
Lalo - Symphony
- RPO (Royal Festival Hall, London 25/10/59)

- Symphony no.2
- BBCSO (BBC Studios, Maida Vale, 23/12/56)
Saint-Saëns - Samson & Delilah Ballet Music
- RPO (BBC Studios, Maida Vale 4/11/59)
Delius - North Country Sketches
- RPO (BBC Studios, Maida Vale 4/11/59)

- Symphony no.1
- RPO (Usher Hall, Edinburgh 23/8/56)
Strauss - Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme Suite
- RPO (Royal Festival hall, London, 21/12/52)

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