Beecham in Seattle - the unheard live recordings
"I was informed there was an emergency, so I emerged..."
Played by Seattle Symphony
conductor Sir Thomas Beecham
1: Third Subscription Concert, 8.30PM, October 18, 1943
2, 5: Second Subscription Concert, 8.30PM, October 11 1943
3, 4: Sunday Matinee Concert, 2.30PM, October 10, 1943
6: Sunday Matinee Concert, 2.30PM, September 26, 1943.
Recorded at the Music Hall Theater, Seattle except 17, 18, 20: Moore Hall, Seattle.
*A few bars at the opening of these tracks have not survived.
Review of this release: Classic Record Collector, Spring 2010
Review of this release: Audiophile Audition
Notes on the recordings:
We are lucky to have any recordings whatsoever of Beecham in Seattle - union disputes precluded any commerical recordings during Beecham's time with the orchestra. To the best of our knowledge there remain three CDs-worth of live material, captured at the start of the 1943 season and preserved first on acetate discs (since melted down), then open-reel tape (since lost), backed up onto more open reel tape (now almost unplayable) and cassette tape. Thus the humble cassette proves the best remaining source of these historic recordings, and it is from excellent transfers of these, supplied by a collector who wishes to remain anonymous, that I have worked.
However it was not the cassette medium which has caused most trouble here - although some of the acetates survived well prior to transfer, others were worn and damaged, and some of that will be audible in places. I also had to merge in approximately 4 seconds of a suitably "digitally aged" modern recording into the Meistersinger Overture to patch a skipped record groove. The result, hopefully undetectable, starts at about 3'12".
Further Background on the Source Recordings
We have the following information on the tapes:
Sir Thomas Beecham was the music director of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra for the 1941-42, 1942-43 and part of the 1943-44 seasons. His final concert was on Monday, November 1, 1943.
Some of the music on the September and October Subscription and Sunday Matinee Concerts from the 1943-44 season was recorded and broadcast on the Standard Symphony Hour on KOL Radio and the Mutual-Don Lee Broadcasting System. Years later, these recordings were transferred from the radio station's 16-inch 78 rpm broadcast masters before they were thrown out or, rather, destroyed as per the agreement that usually used to exist with such recordings, i.e., the station could use the recordings for a while but then they had to be destroyed.
The recordings were first dubbed to reel-to-reel: one 7" reel of 1800 feet of Maxell UD 35-90 tape recorded in single, quarter-track mono at 3 3/4 ips ("reel master").
This reel master tape was subsequently dubbed onto three Sony UX-S 90 minute cassette tapes making additional cassette safety dubs onto TDK SA 90 minute cassettes. The reel master was also dubbed onto three 1800 foot reels of Ampex 407 Mastering Audio Tape in dual, quarter-track mono at 7 1/2 ips as a "safety master."
Unfortunately the Ampex tape referred to here eventually suffered from the notorious 'sticky shed' syndrome. While it is possible to recover tapes in this condition, the fact that this was not understood prior to the tapes themselves being played has caused irreperable damage to them, leaving us with the Sony cassettes as the only remaining viable source for a best -quality restoration. We are fortunate therefore that the cassettes were well-made on quality equipment which has also been used for replay in the final digitisation dubs.
In all there is sufficient surviving material to produce three CDs of recordings. Volume 2 should comprise Beethoven's 8th Symphony, Mendelssohn's 3rd Symphony and an overture by Bizet, whilst Volume 3 will centre around Dvorák's Cello Concerto (with Mischel Cherniavsky, cello) and shorter works by Massenet, Saint-Saëns and Sibelius.
The concerts covered by the collection:
Sunday, September 26, 1943. 2:30 PM. Moore Theater
Mendelssohn. Ruy Blas. Overture (not recorded)
Prokofiev. Peter and the Wolf (not recorded)
Edward German. Gypsy Suite (not recorded)
Mozart. Concerto for Flute and Harp (not recorded)
Delius. On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring
Grieg. Sigurd Jorsalfar. March (not recorded)
Monday, September 27, 1943. 8:30 PM. Music Hall Theater
Rimsky-Korsakov. May Night. Overture (not recorded)
Saint-Saëns. Le Rouet d’Omphale
Beethoven. Symphony No. 4 (not recorded)
Prokofiev. Peter and the Wolf (not recorded)
Dvorak. Symphonic Variations (not recorded)
Sunday, October 10, 1943. 2:30 PM. Moore Theater
Wagner. Die Meistersinger. Overture
Mozart. Marriage of Figaro “No so piu” (not recorded)
Mozart. Don Giovanni. “Batti, batti” (not recorded)
Beethoven. Symphony No. 8
Massenet. La Vierge. The last sleep of the virgin
Sibelius. Valse Triste
Sibelius. Karelia Suite. Alla Marcia
Mozart. Abduction from the Seraglio. “Oh, what joys and pleasure bright” (not recorded)
Elgar. Serenade for Strings. Larghetto
Rossini. William Tell. Overture
Monday, October 11, 1943. 8:30 PM. Music Hall Theater
Wagner. Flying Dutchman. Overture
Mendelssohn. Symphony No. 3
Alexander Brott. The Oracle (not recorded)
Elgar. Enigma Variations
Monday, October 18, 1943. 8:30 PM. Music Hall Theater
Bizet. Patrie Overture
Dvorak. Cello Concerto
Jerome Moross. Symphony (not recorded)
Wagner. Die Meistersinger. Prelude to Act 3
Berlioz, Carnaval Romain Overture (not recorded)