Saturday, 7 April 2012

Beecham in Mozart's Requiem

One advantage of living in the 21st century is that transfers of recordings of previous eras just become better and better. I have just listened with admiration to Andrew Rose's transfers (Pristine) of Thomas Beecham in 1954 with Mozart's Requiem, and in 1958 with Schubert's fifth symphony. Even with perfect LP pressings and the best possible turntable, I doubt whether these recordings over half a century old have ever sounded better.

I enjoyed the Schubert. I wish I could enjoy the Mozart, but I suspect the truth is that I just do not like choral music very much (neither do I enjoy organ music). This is especially true when the music is sung by the mammoth choirs that were so in vogue during the latter half of the 19th century and the first half of the twentieth. Which is not to say I advocate the substitution of a minimalist vocal quartet as favoured by many modern extremists. I admire Otto Klemperer's slimmed-down choirs (around 60 voices) that he favoured in Bach. Beecham's BBC Chorus in the current Requiem reminds me somewhat of dancing elephants.

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