French Orchestral Music

French Orchestral Music

by Thomas Beecham


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French Orchestral Music

Tastes have changed over the decades and pieces that were once quite popular and consistently programmed have not always maintained their status. Take, for example, such erstwhile concert fare as the Overture to Emmanuel Chabrier's obscure opera "Gwendoline" or his "Joyeuse Marche"; Gabriel Fauré's "Dolly Suite" (in the orchestral arrangement by Henri Rabaud); or Georges Bizet's "Patrie Overture" and the "Carnaval" movement from his "Roma Symphony" -- all fading now into unfamiliarity, if not outright obscurity for some classical listeners. And even Camille Saint-Saëns' evocative tone poem "Le Rouet d'Omphale," once regularly played, has become something of a rarity. This compilation of Thomas Beecham's recordings with the French National Radio Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and the London Symphony Orchestra gives us a fair idea of the staples on the conductor's light music concerts and examples of French Romantic works that were quite popular in the 1940s, '50s, and early '60s. While the "Suite No. 1" from Bizet's "Carmen" and Chabrier's "España" are still fashionable today, the rest of this album seems directed toward fans of Beecham's conducting, rather than to new listeners. Indeed, those who aren't interested in the recordings' historical aspects or Beecham's repertoire will find that the performances are a little dull in tone and expression, and that the sound quality is quite variable and at times unpleasant. This is in part due to EMI's recording methods, which were not always cutting edge and sometimes less than adequate; but most of the fogginess of the orchestral sound comes from Beecham's tendency to over-blend instrumental sections and emphasize smoothness of tone over crispness of detail. If this disc is appreciated for its historical interest instead of its musical content, then it will attract a small cadre of Beecham buffs, but not a much wider audience.

Product Details

Release Date: 03/06/2007
Label: Warner Classics
UPC: 0094637998526
catalogNumber: 79985


  1. Carmen, opéra-comique in 4 acts: Act 1. Prelude
  2. Carmen, opéra-comique in 4 acts: Act 2. Entr'acte
  3. Carmen, opéra-comique in 4 acts: Act 3. Entr'acte
  4. Carmen, opéra-comique in 4 acts: Act 4. Entr'acte
  5. Gwendoline, opera in 2 acts: overture
  6. Dolly, suite for piano, 4 hands or orchestra, Op. 56
  7. Le Rouet d'Omphale, symphonic poem in A major, Op. 31
  8. Joyeuse marche (Marche française), for orchestra or piano, 4 hands
  9. España, rhapsody for orchestra, also arranged for 2 pianos
  10. Overture "Patrie", for orchestra, Op. 19
  11. Roma, symphony for orchestra in C major: Carnaval

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