Beecham conducts Handel

Author: 
Edward Greenfield

Beecham conducts Handel

  • (The) Origin of Design, Sarabande
  • (The) Origin of Design, Bourrée (Ariodante)
  • (The) Origin of Design, Rondeau (Ariodante)
  • (The) Origin of Design, Gigue (Terpsichore)
  • (The) Origin of Design, Minuet (Il pastor fido)
  • (The) Origin of Design, Musette (Ariodante)
  • (The) Origin of Design, Battle and Finale
  • (The) Gods Go a'Begging, Minuet (Alcina ballet music)
  • (The) Gods Go a'Begging, Hornpipe (Concerto grosso, Op. 6/7 mvt 5)
  • (The) Gods Go a'Begging, Musette (Il Pastor Fido, Act 2)
  • (The) Faithful Shepherd, Introduction
  • (The) Faithful Shepherd, Fugue
  • (The) Faithful Shepherd, Adagio
  • (The) Faithful Shepherd, Gavotte
  • (The) Faithful Shepherd, Bourrée
  • (The) Faithful Shepherd, Minuet
  • (The) Faithful Shepherd, Pastorale
  • (The) Faithful Shepherd, Finale (Allegro vivace)
  • Amaryllis, Musette
  • (The) Great Elopement, The Pump Room
  • (The) Great Elopement, The Linleys
  • (The) Great Elopement, Hunting Dance
  • (The) Great Elopement, Love Scene
  • (The) Great Elopement, The Weary Flunkies
  • (The) Great Elopement, The Plot
  • (The) Great Elopement, Sarabande
  • (The) Great Elopement, Hornpipe
  • (The) Great Elopement, Beau Nash
  • (The) Great Elopement, Second Love Scene
  • (The) Great Elopement, Interlude
  • (The) Great Elopement, Gigue

Now that Stokowski’s colourful Bach transcriptions have been widely appreciated on disc, it is time that Beecham’s delectable Handel confections were similarly revived. As with Stokowski, I suspect that no one will ever match the maestro himself in bringing out the colour and sparkle of arrangements which boldly fly in the face of all that latter-day purists have been telling us. As Lyndon Jenkins’s admirable booklet-note says, the first of the Handel-Beecham suites, The Gods Go a’Begging, appeared in 1928, designed as a ballet, with movements drawn from various operas, Alcina, Rodrigo, Admeto and Teseo, and with the Hornpipe from the Concerto grosso, Op. 6 No. 7.
After that Beecham’s purloinings are rather harder to identify, and his modifications include a burst of Rule Britannia on the final cadence of the Hornpipe in The Great Elopement, hilariously timed. Apparently it was a defiant gesture, reflecting the fact that Beecham devised this last of his Handel suites in New York at the height of the war. The Great Elopement, designed as a ballet on the subject of Sheridan in Bath, was later expanded from 17 movements (only 12 of which were included on this 1945 recording) to 21, which Beecham later recorded in stereo with the RPO on an LP issued in 1960 (10/60 – nla), with the title changed to Love in Bath. Interestingly, this earlier account is generally more robust and vigorous, if at times a little less elegant.
The Dutton transfers are first-rate, with The Great Elopement of 1945 reflecting the extra frequency-range made available as a result of government research during the war (also reflected in Decca’s ffrr recordings at that time). Otherwise, rather surprisingly, the earliest recordings, dating from 1933 – The Origin of Design and two movements from The Gods Go a’Begging – are the most sharply focused, with astonishing body and presence. As Lyndon Jenkins’s note says, they were the very first recordings that Beecham made with his newly formed LPO, and no doubt special efforts were made by everyone. The antiphonal brass effects in the Battle movement of The Origin of Design come over wonderfully well and, as in other Beecham recordings of the 1930s, the quality of the orchestra he had formed is vividly caught, with refined string tone in romantically expressive slow movements and consistently fine solo playing from wind and brass.
As to the CD transfer I am only sorry that too many tracks contain more than one movement, when it would have been easy to index them all separately.'

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