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Beecham Collection - Wagner / Beecham, Flagstad, Et Al


Release Date: 06/05/2007 
Label:  Somm   Catalog #: 20   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Richard Wagner
Performer:  Kirsten Flagstad
Conductor:  Sir Thomas Beecham
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony OrchestraRoyal Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 1 Hours 8 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



WAGNER Der fliegende Holländer: Overture. 1 Lohengrin: Act I Prelude. 2 Wesendonck-Lieder. 1,3 Tristan und Isolde: Prelude and Liebestod 1,3 & Thomas Beecham, cond; Royal PO; 1 BBC SO; Read more class="SUPER12">2 Kirsten Flagstad (sop) 3 SOMM-BEECHAM 20, mono (67:33) Live: London 11/22/1954; 1 11/25/1953; 2 12/21/1952 3


& Kirsten Flagstad discusses singing Wagner


To collectors familiar with the long career of Sir Thomas Beecham and not merely its last decade (which coincided almost precisely with the advent of the LP era), the above headnote alone should be sufficient to send them rushing to the nearest computer to order a copy of this CD. To others, a few words of commentary ought to suffice. Beecham, who after all was knighted in 1916 for his contributions to opera in Britain, conducted Wagner for most of his career, his most celebrated productions being those of Tristan and The Ring at Covent Garden in the mid 1930s, with Flagstad and Lauritz Melchior—in the prime of their respective careers—in the lead roles.


The present disc offers some rare treats. Beecham was known for being a consummate professional in the studio, but his live performances often outdid his commercial recordings for excitement and flair. The Flying Dutchman Overture was a Beecham concert staple, which he recorded twice; the version here, despite somewhat boxy sound, is more stormy, more theatrical, than either. The Prelude to Lohengrin is an excerpt he recorded only once, on a 78-rpm single in 1951; it never appeared on LP and was for years one of his rarest recordings, until finally being reissued on a Sony CD in 2002. It turned out to be one of his few disappointing recordings, sounding like little more than a perfunctory run-through. The version here, more than a full minute longer, is vastly superior, unfolding in a beautiful, unforced pace.


The items with Flagstad are bound to be of the greatest interest to many listeners. She had by the time of these recordings already sung her final Isolde in the opera house—the legendary recording under Furtwängler had taken place earlier the same year, and she retired from the stage altogether in 1953—but her voice here, at Beecham’s 1952 Christmas concert, is still powerful and radiant. Beecham and the RPO match the sweep of her performance. This, interestingly, was Beecham’s only complete performance of the Wesendonck-Lieder.


The sound is mostly excellent, although curiously, different source materials seem to have been used for the two Flagstad items: there is a noticeable acetate swish throughout the Tristan excerpts, but it is not overly obtrusive.


I can’t imagine any serious Wagner collector or admirer of either artist not wanting to own this disc. No texts are provided, but that shouldn’t be a big problem, since this is unlikely to be anyone’s only version of these pieces. The English-only essay by Graham Melville-Mason is detailed and informative regarding Beecham’s activities as a Wagner conductor. At 20 volumes and counting, “The Beecham Edition” continues to offer precious gems; this one sparkles as brightly as any.


FANFARE: Richard A. Kaplan
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Works on This Recording

1.
Wesendonck Lieder by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Kirsten Flagstad (Soprano)
Conductor:  Sir Thomas Beecham
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1857-1858; Germany 
Date of Recording: 12/21/1952 
Venue:  BBC Studio 1, Maida Vale, London 
Language: German 
2.
Der fliegende Holländer: Overture by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Sir Thomas Beecham
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1841/1852; Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/22/1954 
Venue:  Royal Festival Hall, London 
3.
Lohengrin: Act 1 Prelude by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Sir Thomas Beecham
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1847; Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/25/1953 
Venue:  Royal Festival Hall, London 
4.
Tristan und Isolde: Prelude and Liebestod (with voice) by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Kirsten Flagstad (Soprano)
Conductor:  Sir Thomas Beecham
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1859; Germany 
Date of Recording: 12/21/1952 
Venue:  BBC Studio 1, Maida Vale, London 
Language: German 

Sound Samples

Der fliegende Hollander (The Flying Dutchman): Overture
Lohengrin: Act I: Prelude
5 Gedichte fur eine Frauenstimme, "Wesendonck Lieder": No. 1. Der Engel (The Angel)
5 Gedichte fur eine Frauenstimme, "Wesendonck Lieder": No. 2. Stehe still (Stand Still)
5 Gedichte fur eine Frauenstimme, "Wesendonck Lieder": No. 3. Im Treibhaus (In the Hothouse)
5 Gedichte fur eine Frauenstimme, "Wesendonck Lieder": No. 4. Schmerzen (Pain)
5 Gedichte fur eine Frauenstimme, "Wesendonck Lieder": No. 5. Traume (Dreams)
Tristan und Isolde: Vorspiel (Excalibur): Act III: Prelude
Tristan und Isolde: Vorspiel (Excalibur): Act III: Isolde's Liebestod
Kirsten Flagstad: Talk on Singing Wagner

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