Certainly, Thomas Beecham was one of the great Schubert conductors of the twentieth century. His 1958 recording of Schubert's Third, Fifth, and Sixth remains one of the most stylish, most powerful, and most affectionate recordings of those works ever made and these slightly earlier recordings of Schubert's First, Second, and Eighth is easily in the same league. Indeed, so stylish, powerful, and affectionate are Beecham's interpretations of the First from 1953 and Second from 1954 that one might forget that the composer was only an adolescent when he wrote them. And while this might seem to be too much of a good thing and more maturity than Schubert's youthful music can bear, Beecham's graceful conducting and the superb playing of his Royal Philharmonic makes a strong case for his point of view. No such quibbles can exist for Beecham's 1951 recording of the Eighth, which is a mature work by a composer who stood face to face with death after the first onset of the syphilis that would soon kill him. Beecham's interpretation may not be as harrowing or as monumental as other conductors' interpretations, but it has just as much profundity and perhaps a bit more heart-easing beauty. Once again, Beecham's Royal Philharmonic plays superbly, and once again the half-century-old sound is still real and rich and true, if just a wee bit faded.
AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Symphony No. 1 in D major, D. 82|
|Symphony No. 2 in B flat major, D. 125|
|Symphony No. 8 in B minor ("Unfinished"), D. 759|