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Balakirev: Symphony 1 in C & Tamara Import

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Audio CD, Import, January 12, 1993
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$49.83 $3.49

Editorial Reviews

classical music cd - general

Product Details

  • Orchestra: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Conductor: Sir Thomas Beecham
  • Composer: Mily Balakirev
  • Audio CD (January 12, 1993)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: EMI
  • ASIN: B00000DO4U
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #287,817 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Mark E. Farrington on April 26, 2005
Sir Thomas Beecham was, to use a word that has become "dirty" to us, an aristocrat- a bougeoise aristocrat at that (SHOCKING). And that's not all: at a time when conscious profundity was the sine qua non of music, he dared to say that all he cared about were "the luxuries, not the necessities" of life. But fasten your seatbelts; it gets worse... The "necessities" of life, for Sir Tommy at least, did NOT include "Bach, Beethoven and Brahms- the three bloodiest bores in music." Beecham had the genuis to know that he wasn't meant to be Eugen Jochum or Furtwangler, and had the sense not to apologize for it...His gifts and passions lay more in the direction of poetry, seeming insousiance, and the appreciation of succulent, previously neglected morsels. But, most UNARISTOCRATICALLY, he transmitted to us ALL that same appreciation, sense of privilege and sheer enjoyment.

Such neglected but succulent music included Gretry, Mehul, Mozart (yes, Mozart- who, in Beecham's youth, was considered "small beer" next to the more apparent profundity of Beethoven), some Sibelius, and above all Delius. Not to mention Richard Strauss. (Who but Sir Tommy, that "Bourgeoise Gentilhomme" himself, had the courage to declare- rightly- that Strauss's incidental music was every bit as great as Peer Gynt & L'Arlesienne?) And the Symphony in C and Tamara of Mily Balakirev.

Shortly after completing this exquisite set in December 1955, Sir Tommy intoned to a High Fidelity journalist, "I have just recorded the Symphony of Balakirev. It is, I assure you, as great as anything by Tchaikovsky." (Listen, and TRY to disagree...Not that he ever disparaged the great Peter Ilych; his recordings of the 2nd & 3rd Symphonies put these works "on the map" for many new listeners.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By V. N. Dvornychenko on October 23, 2003
"A tremendous work" is how the conductor, Sir Thomas Beecham, characterizes Balakerev's First Symphony -- to this I would add "a tremendous performance!"
Sir Beecham championed Blakirev at a time when that composer was in danger of slipping into obscurity. Fortunately, at present there are a fair number of recordings of Balakirev's collected works available, including a significant number of his First Symphony. Sir Beecham's performance however is of added interest in that it allows us to compare a first class "western" performance with those of Balakirev's countrymen.
There has been an attempt to characterize Balakirev as a "failed" genius. But consider: 1) he was a successful concert pianist, even if not world famous; 2) his compositions, while modest in output, are significant; many are still played; 3) he was a successful conductor; 4) he was the teacher and leader of a group of composers which included Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, and more distantly, Tchaikovsky; 5) he founded a music school ... hardly shabby accomplishments!
Perhaps what those critics mean is that Balakirev failed to become a household word. While this is true, the same can be said of many composers of genius: Scriabin, Chausson, Frank, Kodaly, Ives ... or even Bartok. Yet, it is true that Balakirev exhibited severe personality and emotional problems that seriously hampered his professional life. He was extremely tactless, and his demeanor suggested what might now be called "bipolar disorder."
Stylistically, Balakirev's First is similar to Borodin's Second Symphony (but less terse), but also has affinities to Tchaikovsky's early symphonies and those of Kalinnikov.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By DAVID BRYSON VINE VOICE on August 18, 2013
For his time, Beecham used to be given exceptionally good recorded sound, whether because he charmed the recording staff or because he intimidated them. His account of Balakirev's first symphony still sounds very well on vinyl, and now here it is sounding even better on cd. As for the performance, it is my own idea of perfection or at least something very near that. I no longer own another performance for comparison, but I used to be very familiar with one from Karajan. What I remember clearly is how the difference between the two (for me, and I say this with all due respect to Karajan's large following) was the difference between near-greatness as from Karajan and the genuine article as exhibited by Beecham. You may get some idea of what I mean when you hear the luminous sound of the repeated woodwind chords a little way into the first movement's introduction. However what I remember most clearly is the start of the scherzo, where the languid and almost offhand grace of Beecham's phrasing, together with the perfect orchestral balance, marked him out as the special genius he was.

If you don't know this symphony you can give yourself a real treat with this record. It is a masterpiece, recognisably Russian but more like Borodin than like Rimsky much less Tchaikovsky. However while Balakirev can turn on the intensity when he wants, in general he majors in elegance, something that may surprise music-lovers who know him from his famous piano firework Islamey. As far as the first symphony goes, Beecham's particular kind of elegance suits it down to the ground. In the most lyrical stretches, that is to say in the andante and in the trio of the scherzo, this performance is a model of grace and beauty.
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