These recordings date from 1957-9 and feature a French orchestra for the symphony and the RPO for the remaining items. The symphony performance is the stereo one that Beecham recorded two years after his very much respected mono version. The mono version is considered tauter and is the favoured version by cognoscenti. I cannot comment on that preference as I have never heard the mono version but this stereo version has been in my collection for a very long time and is a favoured version in that collection.
Regardless of the performance of these pieces, the sound has always been a bit on the thin side with a tendency towards stridency in the symphony especially. This latest remastering has had a tremendous effect in improving the sound with added depth and presence throughout. The French performance is still very brightly lit but worth accepting for the degree of passion and commitment that Beecham draws from the orchestra. Beecham always liked the French orchestral sound for its narrow bored brass and woodwind which gave more immediate impact and cutting edge compared to the larger bored instruments of the RPO. However, there can be little doubt of the superiority of the RPO as a body of players both corporately and as individuals. The Royal Hunt and Storm is simply beyond compare in this performance.
In conclusion therefore, I would suggest that this much loved collection will achieve a further lease of life in its newly upholstered sound. Those who value the disc and are considering a sonic upgrade are unlikely to be disappointed. Newcomers will find a passionate set of performances that really do not have a modern equivalent. As such the disc is both a musical and an historically significant issue which still deserves to be considered as a serious prospect for purchase at any level.
on 29 February 2012
This disc is truly amazing. The performance is marvellous, and the recording quality is magnificent. It is quite impossible to believe that the recording was made so long ago. The restoration team have done a superb job. Of all the recordings of the Fantastique, I put this right at the top.