Mr Bean and Elgar
A compilation of recordings from the 1970s -
'... a technical mastery that any world soloist might envy.'
This CD is mainly and rightly EMI's celebration of Hugh Bean's playing career. A pupil of
Albert Sammons as long as he was around (till 1957), Bean was admirably imbued with the
Elgar tradition, so that concerto and chamber works are instinctively idiomatic. A leader
of orchestras for so much of his professional life, Bean shows a technical mastery that any
world soloist might envy. Countless times he must have accompanied the concerto and known
he could effortlessly outmatch those attempting it. The first time, for instance, I heard
the concerto live was in 1957, when Heifetz celebrated the Elgar centenary with merciless
cuts and a performance as superficial as it was brilliant.
Bean is very different. His respect for Sammons was unbounded, and he was well aware
he had made one of the finest recordings of the concerto available. Henry Wood's
accompaniment, however, was all over the shop, so that dear old 'Timber' perpetuated a
mockery of his avowed love for the work. Before tackling this CD, my main anxiety was
again the conductor, as the worthy Groves was often less than inspired and might
occasionally plod. Not so here. The combination of Bean and Elgar, or indeed that
well-known virtue of British orchestras not to look at the conductor, has galvanised him
and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra into a performance at once sensitive and
passionate. Bean's profound understanding of the work can be taken for granted; his fiery
brilliance is evident at the start of the finale
[listen -- CD1 track 6, 0:00-1:21].
Copyright © 18 August 2004
Robert Anderson, London UK