The Beecham Messiah of 1959 is another early stereo recording that polarizes listeners, with understandable cause. Like the Ormandy Messiah (with its liberal cuts) or the Bernstein Messiah (which changes the order around), The Beecham recording incites friction on a couple of counts, the most egregious being the re-orchestration arranged by Sir Eugene Goossens.
Beecham had an exquisite ear for detail, and his Peer Gynt has more fantasy — more subtlety, too — than anyone else's: Ase s Death and Anitra 's Dance are simply magical. So is the Symphonic Dance, and if In Autumn and the variations occasionally seem a litde thin musically, Beecham makes amends with keenness of attack and eloquent phrasing. The orchestra is superb and the transfers (which give us the variations in stereo for the first time), excellent.
Beethoven reputedly wasn't Beecham's favorite composer, but you wouldn't know it from this performance; it's exceedingly well conceived, highly energetic, and has that unique Beecham sparkle to it. The fillers also are delightful. All recorded in Ascona, Switzerland in 1957.
As with many of the BBC Legends issues, it seems clear enough who the target audience is. Beechamites will want to acquire this recording as a matter of course, and for serious students of the Ninth, this is the only opportunity to hear it performed by one of the most fascinating conductors of the 20th Century. ’Nuff said. – FANFARE: Richard A. Kaplan
For anyone compiling a directory of the ‘greatest recordings’ of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra some nominations are easy to classify. Sir Thomas Beecham’s 1937/8 Berlin recording of Mozart’s The Magic Flute is certainly one of them. Originally re-mastered in 1991 it is pleasing to have this Nimbus set available in the catalogue…
– Michael Cookson, MusicWeb International