Notes and Editorial Reviews
The performances in this box constitute the highest achievement of Thomas Beecham with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Though his many EMI/Columbia recordings of the standard and not so standard repertoire were among the finest of their time, Beecham's Haydn was and remains special. All Beecham's best qualities are in his Haydn -- suave phrasing, smooth shaping, an unerring sense of drama, and an innate feeling for the lyrical line, plus something more: a sense of kinship with the composer.
Born to money and supremely talented, Beecham naturally understood himself to be on a more or less equal footing with the composers whose music he conducted, but he appeared almost to identify with the Austrian classical master. In the London symphonies, Beecham leads performances suffused with character, wit, and invention, performances that constantly surprise but always fulfill, performances altogether individualistic but absolutely right in tone and temper, performances, in sum, very much like both the composer and the conductor. Of course, this wouldn't be possible without the Royal Philharmonic, which plays for Beecham with its accustomed crisp attack and polished virtuosity, and responds quickly and gracefully to his every command.
Great as his Haydn symphonies are, Beecham's account of his oratorio The Seasons is even better. With soprano Elsie Morison, tenor Alexander Young, bass Michael Langdon, the Royal Philharmonic and the eponymously named Beecham Choral Society, Beecham creates a performance with the immense scale and enormous scope the subject requires, and the exalted fusion of idealistic humanism and pantheistic spirituality the treatment demands. Recorded in resplendent stereo between 1956 and 1958, the performances in this box constitute the essential element of any Beecham or Haydn collection. Try "Then breaks the glorious day at last," the final double chorus from The Seasons. If that doesn't do it, nothing will.
-- James Leonard, AllMusic.com