The Music Treasury will feature “rarities” by conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, a distinctive and so significant figure in this past century. The show airs from 19:00 to 21:00 PST on Stanford’s KZSU, with concurrent streaming online from kzsu.stanford.edu. As always, the show is hosted by Dr Gary Lemco.
Sir Thomas Beecham (1879-1961): Rarities
Thomas Beecham was born in 1879 in St. Helens, Lancashire, in the north of England. He was self-taught as a conductor. He had some private composition lessons from Charles Wood in London and from Moszkowski in Paris. Beecham’s father, Sir Joseph Beecham, had made a reasonable fortune making medicines (the famous Beecham pills), and he liked music, so he was able to help Thomas in his chosen career as a musician.
Thomas was 20 years old when his father was reinstated as mayor of St. Helens. To celebrate this event, his father paid for the Hallé Orchestra to give a concert. It was to be conducted by the famous German conductor, Hans Richter. However, a few days before the concert, it was announced that Richter was ill. Thomas immediately said he would conduct the concert. The orchestra at first refused to play for a 20-year-old who had only once ever conducted a concert, but they changed their minds in the end, and the concert was a great success.
In 1909 Thomas got a group of musicians together to form the Beecham Symphony Orchestra. They gave concerts and played for ballets and operas. Beecham conducted operas in Covent Garden and other London opera houses. He also conducted works by composers such as Strauss, Delius, Smythe, and Holbrooke. He played for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes when they first came to England. During World War I, he gave funding to the Halle Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Society, all of which he conducted. He often conducted these orchestras outside London, giving people the chance to hear music they hadn’t heard before.
For several years he had money problems and did not conduct much. Then, in 1932, he formed the London Philharmonic Orchestra and quickly made it into an excellent ensemble. They toured Germany in 1936, and the next year went to Paris. During the 1930s, he conducted at Covent Garden, where he had control of all that went on. He conducted several cycles of Wagner’s Ring. When World War II started in 1939, the theatre was closed, and Beecham went to the United States, where he conducted several orchestras including the New York Philharmonic. He also traveled to Australia.
He returned to Britain in 1944. His orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, was now a self-governing body (the members themselves made decisions about what the orchestra should do and play). They decided they didn’t want Beecham to lead again because he would want to have the power to rule the orchestra. So Beecham formed another orchestra: the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He gave many concerts, toured with them and made many great recordings, and was especially known for his conducting of Haydn and Mozart. He conducted Die Meistersinger at Covent Garden in 1951 and appeared at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires in 1958. Beecham led the Toscanini Memorial concert with the Symphony of the Air (the former NBC Symphony) on 23 January 1957, which we air tonight in the version transcribed for Yves St Laurent Studio. He gave his last concert on 7 May 1960,when he conducted the RPO in Portsmouth.
Beecham was an enormously talented musician. Because he had a good deal of money, he didn’t need to undergo usual musical education to reach his goals. He formed his own life path, and spent energy and money creating the right working conditions for his musicians, conditions that were normal in many other European countries, but not normal in England at that time.
Addison: Carte Blanche – Ballet Suite
D’Indy: La Foret Enchantee – Symphonic Legend, Op. 8
Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, K. 216 (w/G. De Vito)
Offenbach: The Tales of Hoffmann: Act II (w/Rounseville & Grandi)
Arturo Toscanini Memorial Concert:
Grieg: The Last Spring, Op. 34, No. 2
Brahms Symphony No. 3 in F, Op. 90
Berlioz: Marche troyenne