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What's New for April

Music for a Royal Wedding

The wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in London's Westminster Abbey on April 29 is an occasion for music. Traditionally there is a fanfare (this time by members of the Central Band of the RAF), traditional English church music with the Abbey choir and organ solo by the abbey organist James O'Donnell. Visit our Royal wedding music page.

New from Beulah Extra

Reviews quoted are from Brian Wilson's monthy Download reviews at Music Web International

franck symphonic variations
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boyd neel Der Schauspieldirektor overture
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boyd neel Idmeneo overture
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Two sides of a 78 recording that was worth reviving, if only to remind us that Boyd Neel was playing stylish baroque and classical music long before authenticity came upon the scene. He was to do even better later with his own Boyd Neel Orchestra, but there’s plenty of lightness in the playing here from the NSO. The sound suffers from the limitations of 78 recording but the Beulah transfer makes it quite palatable.
adrian boult wagner tristan and isolde prelude
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I hadn’t thought of Boult as a Wagner conductor, though he did make a stereo LP recording of a number of the Overtures and Preludes, still available on a super-budget 2-CD set (EMI 5753892). This recording dates back to his heyday with the BBC SO and comes in good sound. It captures the emotional content of the piece, though it’s perhaps a little less atmospheric than his LP version, where he allowed himself an extra minute and a half of space. Not surprisingly, Reginald Goodall with a later incarnation of the BBCSO, on a BBC Legends recording, takes 50% longer than Boult did in 1933.
elgar la capricieuse campoli
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Not the greatest piece of Elgar that you’ve ever heard but a charming lightweight of the kind that Campoli used to throw off with apparent ease. The recording is very good for its age and the transfer is almost totally free from extraneous noise.
campoli bruch scottish fantasy
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1 Introduction and andantelisten and buy

2 Scherzo and andante sustenuto
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3 Finale
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I’ve always had a soft spot for Bruch’s Scottish Fantasia – based on Scottish tunes, though Bruch never got any nearer than Liverpool, and even more gloriously hammy than his First Violin Concerto. Two recordings introduced me to the music and this was the first of them, but it’s not just nostalgia that makes me welcome its return at such a modest price and in such a good transfer. Apart from a slightly heavy sound, this might have been new-minted and the performance is at least a match for any of the more recent versions. In fact, there isn’t a great deal of competition in the current catalogue numerically. The other recording which I got to know from the university record library, from Oistrakh and Horenstein, last seen on a Double Decca, appears to have been deleted.
hamilton harty berlioz marche troyenne
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hamilton harty tchaikovsky hopak
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The 1932 sound is a bit rough and ready, but the liveliness of the performance shines through. Like so much of the 78s repertoire which Beulah is reviving, this music doesn’t get much of an outing these days.
rossini una voce poco fa
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As recorded here, Micheau’s voice is small and sweet, with a most attractive top, which is how it should be for this aria. Not having heard much of her before, I’d now like to hear more. The accompaniment matters much less, of course, but it’s quietly efficient, if a little reticent, and the recording of Micheau’s voice has stood the passing of time very well.
Schubert Heidenroslein Alexander Kipnis
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anthem sung by kings college choir
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Not exactly seasonal music for April – this is a lullaby for the Christ child – but, unless you insist on having the music sung in German (O Jesulein süß), this will do very nicely. Decca still hadn’t quite mastered the King’s reverberation, which makes the texture a little thick, but the recording and transfer are otherwise good.
anthem sung by kings college choir
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I’m very happy to see the Willcocks version reissued on its own here: with its sense of innigkeit, the description ‘magnificently done’ is just as applicable now as it was when the LP was reviewed in 1960.
anthem sung by kings college choir
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This is the Record of John, suitable for Advent or the Feast of John the Baptist, is Gibbons’ best-known anthem, but it deserves to be heard in the company of some of his other music. Beulah have already given us some of Gibbons’ anthems from Willcocks’ predecessor at King’s, Boris Ord, which I recommended in the July 2010 Roundup (1BX20) but the Willcocks versions have a special assurance which makes them still well worth hearing.
Handel Messiah Overture
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Handel Messiah pastoral symphony
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Sargent’s Handel is either measured and dignified or slow and ponderous according to your preferences. His Huddersfield Choral Society recordings of Messiah were once the only show in town unless you preferred Beecham with everything but the kitchen sink thrown in. My tastes in Handel performances have moved on, but I still enjoyed hearing these two blasts from the past, especially the Pastoral Symphony, where Sargent achieves a measure of lightness, though he misses the rustic touch, the suggestion of shepherds playing bagpipes, which gave the music its name.
Handel arranged elgar Overture in D minor
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Handel organ concerto number 13 cuckoo and the nightingale
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Veracini Meco verrai Luisa Tetrazzini
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Even in its earliest days, the gramophone was especially kind to the human voice, so the sound is nowhere near as dire as you might imagine, especially in this nicely tidied version... I was surprised to find Tetrazzini in 1914 singing, in no mean fashion and with some sense of baroque style – perhaps inspired by the pared-down accompaniment which was all the acoustic horn could take – an aria from a work which still hasn’t made it into the CD catalogue, as far as I’m aware.
godfrey zampa overture
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The 1928 recording is a great deal better than one might expect and it enshrines a lively performance of a piece which used to be more popular than it is now, with just a handful of elderly recordings. Even in 1928 one reviewer thought that the orchestra, which grew into the Bournemouth Symphony, ought to have been playing something better than ‘tawdry pot-pourri overtures and snippets’. I certainly wouldn’t apply the epithet ‘tawdry’ to the Zampa overture or its performance here.
 Schütz' Passion setting of 1623
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Chourus and scene 1
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Scene 2
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Scene 3
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The Wolters version was already described as ‘traditional’ in 1961 and it seems now to have more in common with the Karl Richter tradition of Bach, rather than more recent performances, such as that by Paul Hillier (daCapo 8.226058, with the Christmas Oratorio) which I briefly recommended last Easter. Compare the overall time of 47:08 with 39:31 from Frieder Bernius on Sony (no longer available). Hillier falls between the two at 44:07. Nevertheless, with Helmut Krebs as a fine Evangelist – far preferable to Peter Pears on the Norrington recording, and making no attempt to amplify Schütz’s typically rather spare style – the Beulah is worth having at its modest price as an adjunct to the Hillier
weber Der Freischutz
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weber oberon
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The recording has rather more presence than the Boyd Neel Mozart of the same year (above) and the performance is idiomatic. The National Symphony Orchestra seems to have been working overtime in 1945 – with the war over, many of them would have been freshly demobbed – and they play to good effect here.
weber euryanthe
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Enjoy listening to our new releases on our YouTube channel.

What the critics say

Britten Premieres

1PD14 Britten Premieres
Features the original soundtrack from Way to the Sea (1937) conducted by the composer and gramophone premieres of;

  • Around the Village Green; Irish Reel
  • Soirees Musicales
- Charles Brill Orchestra
  • Introduction and Rondo alla Burlesca
  • Mazurka Eligiaca
- Benjamin Britten and Clifford Curzon (pianos)
  • A Ceremony of Carols
- Morriston Boys Choir, Maria Korchinska (harp), conductor Ivor E Sims

Although no longer availabe on disc you can download the tracks for only £0.79 each or £7.99 for the whole album from itunes

When the items conducted by Charles Brill were first reviewed, in 1938, Britten was still regarded as a ‘pleasant’ composer, with ‘a lively talent’, whose orchestrations, though ‘perhaps rather strident [seemed] well in tune with the days in which we live.’ Autre temps autre mœurs: now we can enjoy Britten’s Rossini orchestrations without any such consideration and these first performances allow us to do so in sound which still sounds perfectly acceptable.

Way to the Sea, complete here with narrative, was a jingoistic film in praise of Portsmouth, its naval and transport connections. The film’s sense of history may be a little creative – far from being a resounding success, as claimed, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle makes it clear that King Alfred’s longships at best achieved a stand-off with the Danes – one was ignominiously grounded. This is more of a curiosity, with its dated travelogue manner, than the Night Mail music; I enjoyed hearing it, but I’m not sure how many more times I shall turn to it.

The Ceremony of Carols was still a novelty in 1946 and required a long, detailed and mainly appreciative description from Alec Robertson, who also had very high praise for Maria Korchinska’s perfect realisation of the harp part and only slightly less for the conductor and choir. Actually, the boys are a little more fallible than AR realised but, even now, with a host of more recent versions, this well-transferred recording – just a light background hiss – of an idiomatic premiere is still well worth hearing.

AR was less appreciative in 1945 of the Introduction and Rondo, which he likened to assault and battery, though he ended up enjoying both it and the Mazurka, a tribute to Paderewski, nevertheless. Apart from a tendency for the pianos to sound like ‘unpleasant xylophones’ in the highest register, he had high praise for the performance and recording. By modern standards the piano tone is harsh, but the performances are self-recommending. Curzon and Britten were, of course, to go on to co-operate in some distinguished Mozart recordings much later (Decca Legends 468 4912 – Piano Concertos 20 and 27, coupled with equally fine Curzon/Kertész recordings).

Brian Wilson at Music Web International

Top Ten Downloads

Currently our top selling downloads are ;

  1. Sullivan - The Lost Chord - Peter Dawson
  2. Brahms - Symphony No4 - Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra Max Fiedler
  3. Herold - Zampa Overture - LPO Basil Cameron
  4. Bach Cantata No 54 Helen Watts Philomusica
  5. Amy Woodforde-Finden - Four Indina Love Lyrics - Peter Dawson
  6. Tchaikovsky - Mazeppa Hopak - Halle Orchestra Hamilton Harty
  7. Strauss - Zigeunerbaron (Gipsy Baron) Overture - LPO Erich Kleiber
  8. Rossini/Respighi - La Boutique Fantasque - Israel Philharmonic Solti
  9. Two Burgundian chansons - Ensemble Pro Musica Antiqua de Bruxelles directed by Safford Cape
  10. Dvorak -Symphony No. 8 - National Symphony Orchestra Basil Cameron

Listen to the top ten.

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Having received our first complaint letter in nearly 18 years of publishing historic recordings we thought it is time to add a customer comments page to this site. You can read the complaint and our reply in full. We hope this will encourage you to add comments, complaints and commendations.

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