Sunday, January 16, 2011

Beecham conducts Favorite Overtures (LPO)

First off, my thanks to jsserraglio for fixing the picture above. The original post included an image with serious barrel distortion that he fixed and sent back to me. I appreciate it a lot.

I have had these two overtures ready for some time, but got stuck on the third of the fourth in the 78rpm set, Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture, which is in fairly poor shape. Having been absent from posting for so long, I have decided to put up the two that are done and to add the other two, including The Merry Wives of Windsor, at a later date, if and when I can bring them into decent sonic shape.

These pieces are all readily available in recordings with Beecham made with the Royal Philharmonic. I love his RPO recordings, but his London Philharmonic records have always had a very special place in my affections, and he is a conductor about whom I am a completest; I want every recording he ever made. He was my first "favorite", and although I no longer describe my response to artists in those limiting terms, my regard for his music-making has only grown through the years. The musical world is richer for his recordings of Sibelius, Mozart, Haydn, and for the few opera recordings that have come down to us. Would there were more. His recording of the Mendelssohn Reformation Symphony is still my favorite after all these years, his LPO recordings of Mozart are peerless, his Delius (a composer I like a lot) set the standard. His sometimes mordant wit, known in countless retellings, has sometimes made him more famous for what he said than for the sterling performances passed down to us in recordings.

He introduced Richard Strauss to England, and the live performance of his Elektra with Paul Schoeffler, Elisabeth Höngen, Ljuba Welitsch, and Erna Schlüter in the title role, is a chilling account of murder, and the psychological cost of vengeance. But despite his important achievements in music of great seriousness and profundity, he is best known to many for his "Lollipops" --- overtures and light fare, which, in fact, nobody did better. Listen to his recorded RPO performance of the "La Gazza Ladra" overture; it is pure genius.

So, while I will continue to work on the other two overtures of this set as time allows, I just did not want to wait any further to post the Mozart Don Giovanni and Berlioz's Roman Carnival. Enjoy!

Links to all files

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Margaret Whiting Remembered

I was saddened when I returned home from a trip, and had time on the internet, to learn of the death of Margaret Whiting. Buster, at Big 10-Inch Record (, posted one of her early albums, perhaps the first. All I can do here is post a photograph I was privileged to take of this fine singer in Albuquerque several years ago.

In my first years in Albuquerque a friend of a friend brought Whiting to New Mexico for several private concerts. During that time I was fortunate enough to meet her, go to dinner with her and her accompanist, Tex Arnold, and to sit in on rehearsals and performances in order to take photographs.

The above was taken during rehearsal; I believe she was singing "Misty" at my request. Forever after, for me at least, it has been a song that she owned.

She was a gracious lady, unfazed by the silly fawning we made around her, seemingly confident in her talent, but by no means impressed with herself. I have long liked the picture of her I am sharing. Others I took are technically better, but this one has always spoken to me, and fits the fond memories I have of those hours.