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Gramophone, March 2011

Feelings of great tenderness pervade much of this famous performance, where the singers surpass themselves in matching Beecham for pathos and spontaneity. The pre-war version of Act 3 parades parallel sensibilities couched in quite different vocal terms, a useful comparison.




Penguin Guide, January 2009

Naxos…offer what their transfer engineer calls ‘The Ultimate Beecham Bohème’, as it brings together the 1956 set as above (transferred from the best portions of four RCA ‘shade dog’ pressings which preserve the openness and impact of the original master-tapes) and Beecham’s pre-war recording of the whole of Act IV, made in 1935/6 at Abbey Road, with Heddle Nash and Dora Labbette singing superbly as Rodolfo and Mimì; also included is Labbette’s exquisite performance of D’onde lieta usci from Act III. What is astonishing about this earlier studio performance is that it has all the spontaneity of the later set and treasurable performances from all the principals involved. The LPO plays ravishingly, and the recording is unbelievably real and vivid. If that were not enough, Mark Obert-Thorn has found an introductory promotional speech by Beecham himself, which ends with a characteristic touch of wit.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2007

When it was discovered that Victoria de los Angeles, Jussi Bjorling and Sir Thomas Beecham would be in New York at the same time and with time on their hands, the wheels in set in motion to put together this legendary recording of Puccini's La Boheme. The remaining parts were taken by members of the Metropolitan Opera, while the orchestra was most probably also drawn from the Metropolitan. With session time limited, mistakes just had to stay in the finished product, though the whole is still one of the most magical opera performances placed on disc. De los Angeles was a delicate Mimi, her eventual death almost predestined from her first entry, the voice both gentle and open at the top end. It acted is a perfect foil for the elegant Bjorling who belied his age by offering a wonderfully young and ardent Rudolfo, his voice at the very pinnacle of his recording career. Between them they make the end of the third and fourth acts almost unbearably sad. The remaining Bohemians are a most likeable crowd, and if we have heard more shrewish Musettas, this one is mercifully not the usual 'over the top' performance. Beecham's attention to Puccini's quiet dynamics created intimate scenes in the Bohemian's attic, and he seemed to cast a spell over the whole proceedings, the singers responding with such attention to detail that most modern recordings become by comparison a mundane view of the score. This new transfer has dried out the sound of my original LP's, that being a big advantage as originally I found it too much like an echo chamber product. I have loved and flirted with many versions since this first appeared, but hearing it again I am tempted to say it will never be equalled. As an addendum Beecham pompously speaks about Boheme, the interview coming from a promotional disc that is a waste of time. It then goes to his recording of the final act made in London in 1935, now quite miraculously reincarnated. The singing is not great, but every moment is caressed.






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6:58:00 PM, 31 July 2014
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