BEECHAM The ABC Blue Network Concerts, Complete (1945) - PABX016

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BEECHAM The ABC Blue Network Concerts, Complete (1945) - PABX016

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Overview

NICOLAI The Merry Wives of Windsor: Overture
ELGAR
Serenade for Strings
HANDEL-BEECHAM
Love in Bath: The Great Elopement
DELIUS
The Walk to the Paradise Garden
J. STRAUSS II
Voices of Spring
WAGNER Götterdämmerung: Siegfried’s Funeral March
SIBELIUS Pelléas et Mélisande Suite: The Death of Mélisande
MOZART
Divertimento, K 131: Adagio
SCHUBERT
Symphony No. 8, “Unfinished.”
TCHAIKOVSKY
Serenade in C: Elegie
BERLIOZ
Les Troyens: Trojan March
MOZART  Symphony No. 31
HANDEL-BEECHAM 
Piano Concerto

CHABRIER
España

MOZART The Impressario - Overture
SAINT-SAENS Omphale’s Spinning Wheel
BERLIOZ The Trojans - Royal Hunt and Storm
BERLIOZ Hungarian March

Recorded in 1945

Sir Thomas Beecham, conductor
Blue Network Symphony Orchestra

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This set contains the following albums:

Click below to expand note:
BEECHAM The ABC Blue Network Concerts, Volume 1 (1945) - PASC461

First of four newly-discovered broadcast concerts by Beecham at the nascent ABC in 1945

"Robust and joyous ... a wonderfully entertaining album" - Fanfare


As indicated in our additional notes here, ABC, the American Broadcasting Company, had a somewhat unusual and protracted birth. The company and, in particular, its radio network, were still in a state of transition when, in April 1945, it acquired the services of Sir Thomas Beecham to conduct a series of four concerts with a little-known orchestra billed on air as the "Blue Network Symphony Orchestra", and more prosaically in the New York Times radio listings as simply "Sir Thomas Beecham, conducting a Symphonic Orchestra".

Quite from where the members of this orchestra were drawn is open to some guesswork: the members of the New York Philharmonic were engaged on the morning of the first broadcast in an 11am youth concert at Carnegie Hall - could some of these players also have made it to the 4pm live broadcast for ABC? Toscanini had no engagements with his NBC Symphony Orchestra that month - might some of them moonlighted on the very same Blue Network which had traditionally been their home when it was under the NBC umbrella? Beecham, meanwhile, was in New York to conduct the Rochester Orchestra in two concerts at Carnegie Hall in March and a third (a ballet) on 6th April 1945, at the Met. Might he have run through with them the twenty various shorter items which made up these four broadcasts? And would the players go on to form the same "ABC Symphony Orchestra" that composer Roy Harris conducted in his own music three years later? Maybe answers will be unearthed as this series continues.

And it's certainly an interesting collection of music, including "radio premières" of music credited to Handel-Beecham, one of which features the then Lady Beecham, Betty Humby, on piano. Of particular historic interest is the second in the series, which was hastily converted into a memorial concert for the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose funeral service was taking place at the White House as the broadcast proceeded, something which entailed leaving the Unfinished Symphony literally unfinished as the station cut to a live commentator on the event.

Sonically the recordings are more than adequate for AM radio broadcasts of the era, if largely lacking in the upper frequencies one might wish for in a hi-fi recording. They were preserved on 33rpm acetate discs from which these restorations were drawn.

Andrew Rose


BEECHAM The ABC Blue Network Concerts, Volume 2 (1945) - PASC470

Second of four newly-discovered broadcast concerts - Beecham's Roosevelt Tribute Concert

"The concert ends with the Marche Troyenne - a noble way in which to end this near-hour long salute to the departed leader" - MusicWeb International


Sir Thomas Beecham's second of four scheduled live concert broadcasts with ABC's "Blue Network Symphony Orchestra" must have given the new station's controllers any number of headaches, primarily because of the sudden death in office of President Roosevelt two days before the concert, scheduled to coincide with the funeral service at the White House. We do not know what music Beecham had planned for that concert, but one assumes it would have been considerably different to the more solemn affair delivered on the day.

In preparing this previously-unreleased broadcast for issue I've had to make several unusual interventions. The broadcast began with a minute's silence, which I've faded. A section of about 50 seconds of music was missing from the Sibelius - this I've patched in from another recording which I've "aged" to match the Beecham. A much shorter section in the Schubert had to be similarly patched.

The latter, interrupted by the broadcaster for a live report from the White House (audio of which doesn't apparently survive) is quite literally unfinished - but we have most of it. Thereafter the concert is complete, though the announcement of a Berlioz Intermezzo and Serenade lead into a faded-in Tchaikovsky Elegie, indicating that the concert, before a largely silent audience, continued without a break.

It's a remarkably historic document with some fabulous playing. Sound quality again is good AM radio; I've been able to deal largely with some interference from other radio stations, whilst some disc surface noise is occasionally audible.

Andrew Rose


BEECHAM The ABC Blue Network Concerts, Volume 3 (1945) - PASC477

Third of four newly-discovered broadcast concerts by Beecham at the nascent ABC in 1945

"In New York he whipped up a quite different and more kinetic kind of storm"
- MusicWeb International


Following the hastily-arranged and sombre affair of Beecham's second Blue Network Symphony Orchestra concert (PASC470), his third engagement saw something of a return to normal service, and some far more upbeat commentary from Milton Cross than was heard at the Roosevelt Memorial Concert of Volume Two.

Once again we have a "Handel-Beecham" radio première, following on in this respect from the first concert (PASC461). This time the work was a Piano Concerto in A, with the soloist one Betty Humby, who two years previously had become Lady Beecham when she married the conductor, some 29 years her senior, before a police justice in Manhattan. Described by a reviewer as "a straightforward arrangement of themes with the typical Beecham touch", the musical duo had already made a studio recording of the concerto in the January of 1945 with the London Philharmonic, one of a number of recordings Beecham made at the time which remained unissued for contractual reasons until copyright expired in the 1990s.

As with the previous volumes, sound quality from these 33rpm transcription discs is on a par with good AM broadcasts, greatly assisted by XR remastering.


Andrew Rose


BEECHAM The ABC Blue Network Concerts, Volume 4 (1945) - PASC480

Final of four newly-discovered broadcast concerts by Beecham at the nascent ABC in 1945

"His NY forces are in splendid form here, the coagulant tone of the lower strings being especially notable, as is the fine brass playing"
- MusicWeb International


Information concerning Sir Thomas Beecham's four concerts on the nascent ABC radio network in April 1945 is scant, but a small notice in the New York Times of 15 April suggests that not only had the Saturday concerts been quickly deemed a success, but that plans were already afoot to take the idea forward.

Expecting to follow in Sir Thomas's footsteps were Max Goberman, Nikolai Beresowski and Paul Whiteman (for a Gershwin memorial concert on June 30). Furthermore it was stated that "while there has been no official announcement of such a plan, it is reported that the orchestra may become a permanent symphony ensemble for the network".

Beecham's final concert was once again centred around a classical symphony - this time from Haydn - coupled with a handful of popular shorter works.Our source this time lacked an introduction or sign-off from Milton Cross, and quality varies somewhat across the sides, but generally we find decent audio quality and, once again, some sterling musicianship from Sir Thomas and his ensemble.

Andrew Rose


Click below to expand track listing:
BEECHAM The ABC Blue Network Concerts, Volume 1 (1945) - PASC461

NICOLAI The Merry Wives of Windsor - Overture
ELGAR  Serenade for Strings in E minor, Op. 20
HANDEL-BEECHAM The Great Elopement - Selections
DELIUS The Walk to the Paradise Garden
J STRAUSS II Frühlingsstimmen (Voices of Spring Waltz) Op. 410

Live broadcast on ABC/Blue Network, 4pm, 7 April 1945
Announcer: Milton Cross

Blue Network Symphony Orchestra
Sir Thomas Beecham, conductor




BEECHAM The ABC Blue Network Concerts, Volume 2 (1945) - PASC470

WAGNER Götterdämmerung, WWV 86D - Siegfried's Funeral March
SIBELIUS Pelléas et Mélisande, Suite, Op. 46 - 9. The Death of Mélisande
MOZART Divertimento in D, K.131 - 2nd mvt. - Adagio
SCHUBERT  Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D.759 "Unfinished"
ABC Radio - Interruption for White House funeral report
TCHAIKOVSKY Serenade for Strings, Op. 48 - 3rd mvt. - Elegie
BERLIOZ The Trojans, H.133 - Marche Troyenne

Live broadcast on ABC/Blue Network, 4pm, 14 April 1945
Ritz Theater, W. 48th Street,  New York City
Announcer: Milton Cross

Blue Network Symphony Orchestra
Sir Thomas Beecham, conductor

BEECHAM The ABC Blue Network Concerts, Volume 3 (1945) - PASC477

MOZART  Symphony No. 31 in D major, "Paris", K297
HANDEL-BEECHAM  Piano Concerto in A major
CHABRIER España, Rhapsodie pour orchestre

Live broadcast on ABC/Blue Network, 4pm, 21 April 1945
Ritz Theater, W. 48th Street,  New York City
Announcer: Milton Cross

Betty Humby, piano
Blue Network Symphony Orchestra

Sir Thomas Beecham, conductor

BEECHAM The ABC Blue Network Concerts, Volume 4 (1945) - PASC480

MOZART Der Schauspieldirektor, K.486 - Overture
SAINT-SAËNS Le Rouet d'Omphale, Op. 31
HAYDN  Symphony No. 102 in B flat major, Hob. I:102
BERLIOZ Les Troyens, H133 - Chasse royale et Orage
BERLIOZ La damnation de Faust, H 111 - Marche Hongroise

Blue Network Symphony Orchestra
Sir Thomas Beecham, conductor

Live broadcast on ABC/Blue Network, 4pm, 28 April 1945
Ritz Theater, W. 48th Street,  New York City
Announcer: Milton Cross

MusicWeb International Review

A tremendous reading - fluctuating, brimming, teeming with ardent lyricism, and a fulsome example of Beecham’s art

REVIEW OF VOLUME 2

The second in the series of Blue Network concerts in New York on 14 April 1945 (see Volume 1 for further details) saw a tribute concert in memory of President Roosevelt who had died just two days before. The programme had to be changed to reflect the sombre nature of the occasion which was interrupted for a funeral report from the White House. A few salient details need to be borne in mind. After the introduction by Milton Cross there was a minute’s silence – one can hear cross-station interference – that producer Andrew Rose has wisely truncated. 50 seconds of music is missing from the Sibelius, which he has patched from another recording – he doesn’t say which. A shorter patch was necessary in the Schubert which is ended early in any case by a live report.

Almost everything here is familiar from Beecham’s extant discography, though not everything will be familiar from on-the-wing live performances such as these. Siegfried’s Funeral March starts slightly awkwardly and ensemble is less blended than in his 1953 RPO studio performance. Nevertheless, the cumulative charge of the music-making is very strong indeed. Something should be said about Pristine’s tracking details which list track 3 as The Death of Mélisande from Sibelius’s Op.46 suite. In fact, there are, to be precise, three movements from the suite; Mélisande (No.2), Pastorale (No.5) and finally, and most appropriately, The Death of Mélisande itself. This offers a more wide-ranging mini-suite in which playful arabesques lighten the commemorative and grieving elements enshrined in the bulk of Beecham’s programme. His 1955 RPO performance may be more tightly played but this New York one has great gravity – his vocal exhortations during this last tableau will be familiar to those who know his similarly live BBC Second Symphony recording. The inclusion of the Adagio from Mozart’s Divertimento in D, K131, is apt.

The surface hiss level is at its most intrusive in the second movement of Schubert’s Unfinished. But the brass is trenchant and the strings taut and memories will stir of his pre-war reading with the LPO just as much as the 1951 RPO. By a quirk of reportage therefore, given that the concert relay is halted before the end of the work, we have a doubly-unfinished symphony. The real bonus for Beecham aficionados is the inclusion of Tchaikovsky’s Elegie from the Serenade for Strings, which he never recorded commercially. Milton Cross announces this as Berlioz’s Intermezzo and Serenade, a clue perhaps to the original concert line-up. This is a tremendous reading - fluctuating, brimming, teeming with ardent lyricism, and a fulsome example of Beecham’s art. The concert ends with the Marche Troyenne - a noble way in which to end this near-hour long salute to the departed leader.

This sequence of continuing discs leads me to hope that aural evidence has survived of Beecham’s coast-to-coast tour of the US with the RPO in 1950.

Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International