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Sibelius: Symphony No 7, Etc / Beecham, Royal Po


Release Date: 03/11/2008 
Label:  Emi Great Recordings Of The Century Catalog #: 09693   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir Thomas Beecham
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
CD not available: This title is currently only available as an MP3 download.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews



SIBELIUS Symphony No. 7. Pelléas et Mélisande: Suite. Tapiola. The Oceanides Thomas Beecham, cond; Royal PO EMI 09693 (76:45)


What remains to be said about these classic performances? Recorded at some of Beecham’s earliest stereo sessions in November-December 1955, they introduced most of this music to an entire generation of listeners. With the exception of Read more style="font-style:italic">Tapiola , which was published posthumously in 1963, they were first issued in the U.S. on an execrable-sounding Angel LP—among the first of that label’s HMV-licensed records to be pressed by Capitol in the U.S. rather than imported from England—and remained in print for the duration of the LP era. Even in that wretched mastering, the record was a treasure, and its first CD issue in 1990 as part of EMI’s “Beecham Edition” was a revelation. The current version, part of the “Great Recordings of the Century” series, is a fresh remastering, as a note on the back cover tells us, “noise-shaped via the Prism SNS system”; whatever that is, it does diminish tape hiss and some hum that afflicts the original recordings, without introducing any objectionable qualities that I could hear. The difference from the 1990 CD is audible, especially on high-quality headphones, but subtle enough that I’d recommend replacement of the earlier release only to the most critical listeners.


For those who don’t already own these recordings, suffice it to say that each performance is one of the greatest ever on disc. Yes, the sound does show its age a bit—the highs can be somewhat harsh and glassy in places, and you won’t hear the richness and depth of the finest current orchestral recordings—but it’s still very impressive for such an early experiment in stereo recording. Beecham’s way with Sibelius’s music, along with his personal friendship with the composer, is well known; while he had recorded the Symphony and Tapiola earlier in his career, as well as six movements of the Pelléas music in 1939—although only three were ever issued—the notes by Beecham authority Lyndon Jenkins tell us that The Oceanides was recorded in response to a specific request by Sibelius, and that Beecham otherwise never performed it, either before or after making the recording. Listening to this reading along with those of the other works, one would never guess: Beecham gauges the mood, tempos, and orchestral colors as ideally here as he does elsewhere in the collection.


If state-of-the-art sound is a crucial criterion, I’d suggest Järvi (BIS), Blomstedt, or Rattle in the Symphony, Vänskä in The Oceanides , and Järvi again (DG) in Tapiola ; as for Pelléas , music that depends so heavily on atmosphere for its 27-odd minutes (Beecham plays the standard eight-movement suite minus “At the Seashore”), I know no other recording that manages throughout to maintain the fascination of this one.


I almost always resist the urge to make a statement like this, but here goes: these recordings belong in the collection of any serious lover of Sibelius’s music.


FANFARE: Richard A. Kaplan
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Works on This Recording

1.
Tapiola, Op. 112 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir Thomas Beecham
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1926; Finland 
Length: 18 Minutes 0 Secs. 
2.
Oceanides, Op. 73 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir Thomas Beecham
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1914; Finland 
Length: 10 Minutes 26 Secs. 
3.
Pelléas et Mélisande, Op. 46: no 1, At the castle gate by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir Thomas Beecham
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1905; Finland 
Length: 3 Minutes 32 Secs. 
4.
Pelléas et Mélisande, Op. 46: no 2, Mélisande by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir Thomas Beecham
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1905; Finland 
Length: 5 Minutes 4 Secs. 
5.
Pelléas et Mélisande, Op. 46: no 4, Spring in the park by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir Thomas Beecham
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1905; Finland 
Length: 2 Minutes 17 Secs. 
6.
Pelléas et Mélisande, Op. 46: no 5, Three blind sisters by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir Thomas Beecham
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1905; Finland 
Length: 2 Minutes 45 Secs. 
7.
Pelléas et Mélisande, Op. 46: no 6, Pastorale by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir Thomas Beecham
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1905; Finland 
Length: 1 Minutes 58 Secs. 
8.
Pelléas et Mélisande, Op. 46: no 7, At the spinning wheel by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir Thomas Beecham
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1905; Finland 
Length: 2 Minutes 11 Secs. 
9.
Pelléas et Mélisande, Op. 46: no 8, Intermezzo by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir Thomas Beecham
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1905; Finland 
Length: 3 Minutes 21 Secs. 
10.
Pelléas et Mélisande, Op. 46: no 9, Death of Mélisande by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir Thomas Beecham
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1905; Finland 
Length: 6 Minutes 33 Secs. 
11.
Symphony no 7 in C major, Op. 105 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir Thomas Beecham
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1924; Finland 
Length: 19 Minutes 9 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Pelléas et Mélisande - Incidental music Op. 46 (Suite) (2008 Digital Remaster): 1. At the Castle Gate
Pelléas et Mélisande - Incidental music Op. 46 (Suite) (2008 Digital Remaster): 2. Mélisande
Pelléas et Mélisande - Incidental music Op. 46 (Suite) (2008 Digital Remaster): 4. A Spring in the Park
Pelléas et Mélisande - Incidental music Op. 46 (Suite) (2008 Digital Remaster): 5. The Three Blind Sisters
Pelléas et Mélisande - Incidental music Op. 46 (Suite) (2008 Digital Remaster): 6. Pastorale
Pelléas et Mélisande - Incidental music Op. 46 (Suite) (2008 Digital Remaster): 7. Mélisande at the Spinning Wheel
Pelléas et Mélisande - Incidental music Op. 46 (Suite) (2008 Digital Remaster): 8. Entr'acte
Pelléas et Mélisande - Incidental music Op. 46 (Suite) (2008 Digital Remaster): 9. The Death of Mélisande
The Oceanides Op. 73 (2008 Digital Remaster)
Symphony No. 7 in C Op. 105 (2008 Digital Remaster): Adagio
Symphony No. 7 in C Op. 105 (2008 Digital Remaster): Un pochettino meno adagio - Vivacissimo - Adagio
Symphony No. 7 in C Op. 105 (2008 Digital Remaster): Allegro molto moderato
Symphony No. 7 in C Op. 105 (2008 Digital Remaster): Vivace - Presto - Adagio
Tapiola - Symphonic Poem Op. 112 (2008 Digital Remaster)

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