Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sir Thomas' Only Issued Commercial Bach Recording

The great Sir Thomas Beecham (1879-1961) was renowned for his interpretations of older music, especially his unique Handel arrangements, but he seems to have had a blind spot when it came to Bach. It's unclear why. Maybe the heaviness with which Bach was usually interpreted in those days turned him off; maybe it was rivalry with Sir Henry Wood, who was famous for his renditions of the Brandenburg Concertos. Whatever the reason, the fact that he could, when he was so moved, turn out a perfect gem of a Bach performance is amply demonstrated by this record, which also contains one of his inimitable Handel transcriptions:

Bach: Christmas Oratorio - Sinfonia
Handel-Beecham: Il Pastor Fido - Gavotte
Sir Thomas Beecham conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Recorded May 12, 1947
RCA Victor 12-0583, one 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 22.45 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 14.76 MB)

This record was only issued in the USA, never by HMV in Europe.

As I may have mentioned here before, in my heyday as a 78 collector I had a collection of over 8,000 discs, which I was forced to sell in 2003-04 for financial reasons. Some of these I had had since childhood. Among them were several by the First Piano Quartet, and when in my recent post devoted to this ensemble, a commenter mentioned a recording of the Paganini Variations, I thought to myself, ruefully, "yes, I used to have that record, and wish I still did."

Well, a few days later, I was at my parents' house for Thanksgiving dinner, and my mother mentioned that there were still several boxes of my records in the basement. This was news to me; I had thought they threw out all the unsold stuff years ago. I went to investigate and found lots of junk, of course - many sets with broken or missing records which I had never tried to sell, but also several dozen single records, some of which I was genuinely surprised to see hadn't sold. Among the latter was this Beecham Bach record. And yes, I did get my First Piano Quartet records back - it was like an early Christmas present! The reclaimed records were somewhat the worse for having been stored in a damp basement for 10 years, perhaps, but still quite playable, and now I share the first of these with you all.

Merry Christmas, everyone!


  1. Thanks, Bryan, for this holiday rarity, and a very merry Christmas to you, as well.

  2. Looking forward to this one, Bryan. Cheering story, too. Thanks for all the wonderful music in 2014, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

  3. Thanks Bryan, for all your uploads, and have a merry Christmas & happy new year to you!

  4. Sweet! Looking forward to hearing them. Thank you for all your time and efforts here. Wishing you a merry Christmas and the all the best in the new year!

  5. Thanks Bryan for that rarity and Merry Christmas to you too....JOYEUX NOEL !!!

  6. You pick the neatest Christmas presents for us! The woodwinds in the
    Handel are exquisite. Many thanks, and best wishes for the season and the new year.
    Mike in Plovdiv

  7. You're right, it is a gem - thank you! And congratulations on your happy windfall, and a Merry Christmas and Happy 2015! Best wishes, Nick

  8. Help --
    I'm can't find a Albert Coates thread- but indeed possess an original Decca ffrr lp. It is titled Romeo and Juliet/ Fantasy overture conducted by Albert Coates. Any info on this would be appreciated

    Juan L

    1. Hello Juan - here you go.

      Albert Coates cond. the National Symphony Orchestra
      Recorded at Kingsway Hall
      originally recorded in the 78 rpm format

      Feb 8, 1945 - Parts 1 & 4 AR 9109 & AR 9112
      Feb 23, 1945 - Parts 2,3 & 5 AR 9110, AR 9111 & AR 9113

  9. Hello,

    May I thank you for all your hard work and dedication in posting all the beautiful music during 2014.

    It is very much appreciated.

    All the very best for the Festive Season and in 2015.


    Douglas (UK)