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Un-buttoned Beecham

'The Tales of Hoffmann'
in a vintage performance -
enjoyed by PETER DALE

'The recording is remarkably warm, surface noise minimal, characterisation lively, and orchestral playing spot on.'

The Beecham Collection - Jacques Offenbach: The Tales of Hoffmann (c) 2002 Lady Beecham and Somm Recordings

This latest addition to Somm's Beecham Collection, in collaboration with the Sir Thomas Beecham Trust, offers the whole of Offenbach's sparkling operetta, but with the addition of fifteen minutes edited from an informal session in which Beecham undertook to introduce the work to Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger who were planning to make a film of it. Here the un-buttoned Beecham plays the piano (and not badly either for someone who was not seriously trained), sings (awfully), bawls (very well) and generally provides a vivid insight to the character of his legendary charisma.

The 1947 recording of Tales reveals Beecham's perhaps unexpectedly deep sympathy for lighter music, and his genius for bringing out the best in it: sentiment which convinces without lurching into sentimentality, infectious delight in sheer melody, wit dryly delivered -- and all without archness or rum-ti-tumminess. The singers include Bruce Dargavel as Coppelius, Robert Rounseville as Hoffman, Dorothy Bond as Olympia [listen -- CD1 track 16, 0:00-0:45] and Margherita Grandi as Guiletta. The young Owen Brannigan doubles as Schlemil, Crespel and Hermann. The cut-glass diction makes it a period piece but also -- let's face it -- an object lesson to many a modern singer [listen -- CD1 track 14, 0:00-1:44]! The recording is remarkably warm, surface noise minimal, characterisation lively, and orchestral playing spot on. There is a great deal -- for all its mono sound -- to recommend this performance to twenty first century audiences.

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Copyright © 30 October 2002 Peter Dale, Danbury, Essex, UK

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