French Orchestral Music (CD review)

Sir Thomas Beecham, French National Radio Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and London Philharmonic Orchestra. EMI 0946 3 79985 2 6.

Any Beecham recording remastered in EMI’s “Great Recordings of the Century” series should be self-recommending. This disc is no exception, notwithstanding a few items among the collection being in mono. Beecham was fond of calling short pieces of light music “lollipops,” and this program brims over with them.

Things begin with a suite from Bizet’s Carmen, culled from the orchestral pieces in Beecham’s celebrated 1958 opera recording. The suite bursts with life, zest, vitality, and charm. I don’t believe anybody has ever done the music better, and it sounds as clear and lively in its full-ranging stereo sound as anything done today.

Following that, we find Chabrier’s Gwendoline overture, one of several performances taken from French radio broadcasts and done up in decent but not spectacular monaural.

Next is an unexpected treat, an orchestral arrangement of Faure’s Dolly, highlighting excellent 1959 stereo sonics and featuring some totally enchanting and enlivening music; you’ll find a few little gems in here. Then there is Saint-Saens’ Le Ruet d’Omphale; Chabrier’s Joyeuse Marche and Espana, the latter one of Beecham’s biggest-selling earlier records, in mono from 1939; and finally Bizet’s overture from Patrie and “Carnaval” from Roma, both also in mono.

Beecham was a master of this kind of thing. He never failed to delight his listeners when he was alive, and he never fails to do so nowadays, thanks to the marvels of modern technology. Delicious ear candy.


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa