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The Beecham Edition - Beecham: in Rehearsal
Beecham, Rpo
The Beecham Edition - Beecham: in Rehearsal
Genre: Classical
The Beecham Edition - Beecham: in Rehearsal


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The Beecham Edition - Beecham: in Rehearsal

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Glimpses of Sir Thomas Beecham
Robert E. Nylund | Ft. Wayne, Indiana United States | 04/04/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Sir Thomas Beecham (1879-1961) was a very gifted conductor who, in the words of several musicians, had an "inner vision" of the music he conducted. He was born into wealth (his father was the founder of a very successful pharmaceutical company in Great Britain) and, given his love for music, was able to found several orchestras in the United Kingdom and conduct them. He was knighted for his extensive work in opera at London's Covent Garden.

Sir Thomas began making recordings, for Columbia, in 1910, making him one of the first major conductors to record. He continued recording with various orchestras until December 1959, when he was 80 years old! He died in March 1961.

EMI engineers were responsible for most (if not all) of Beecham's recordings in Europe. The recordings on this CD were made in London and Paris. Beginning in late 1955, Sir Thomas' recordings were taped both in mono and stereo. During rehearsals for these recordings, as engineers adjusted microphones and balances, the engineers frequently taped Sir Thomas as he rehearsed and talked to the orchestra.

Some of his conversations are VERY funny. He had a good memory for events which had occurred many years ago and the musicians clearly enjoyed listening to his fascinating tales. Among them was the account of meeting someone who had, years earlier, been at a Beecham rehearsal for Richard Strauss' opera "Salome." The man said at one point Sir Thomas asked, "Where's the prophet?" "I've always wondered," the man said, "if you were referring to someone in the cast or the financial condition of the company." Beecham replied: "Both."

During the rehearsal for Mozart's "Abduction from the Seraglio," Beecham asks, "Where's the piccolo? Who's going to play the d--n piccolo?" It soon becomes apparent that the piccolo player is late and, when he shows up, Sir Thomas demands that the musician come and stand in front of the orchestra and play his solo.

Yes, Sir Thomas could be a martinet as he sought perfection, but he also admitted he was not about to lecture a group of musicians such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on how to play a piece of music. He clearly admired the talented musicians in his orchestras. At the time these recordings were made he was conducting the Royal Philharmonic, an orchestra he had founded near the end of World War II (after he returned from a self-imposed exile in the United States).

There's the famous story, which Sir Thomas tells, of conducting Beethoven's "Leonore Overture No. 3," with its famous offstage trumpet solo. At the crucial moment when the trumpeter was expected to play, Sir Thomas gave a cue and heard nothing. He continued conducting the piece and wondering what had happened. After the concert, Sir Thomas found the perplexed trumpeter and asked him what had happened. "I was about to play my solo," the musician, "and had raised my trumpet when a policeman said, 'You can't play that now. There's a concert going on inside.'"

During one of the rehearsals, in Paris in April 1958, a thunderstorm interrupts the recording. This leads Sir Thomas to recall a recording session years earlier when he was conducting Sibelius' incidental music to Shakespeare's "The Tempest" that was also affected by a thunderstorm; on that occasion the recording engineers decided to continue recording and to release with the extra percussion. At this point the producer comes on the intercom and announces, "We pay extra money for thunderstorms."

These excerpts from Beecham's rehearsals give us rare, fascinating glimpses of how he worked and also a chance to hear some of those memorable stories. While the sound quality varies considerably, it is a wonderful opportunity to HEAR Sir Thomas and appreciate his wonderful musical talents and legendary wit.
Beecham being himself!
Rev. Ben Cox | Orlando, Florida | 03/07/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Between 1968 and 1970, I was privileged to be in the London Symphony Summer Institute in Daytona Beach. I was a music major at Stetson University. Along with the symphony, Geoffrey Gilbert joined the Stetson faculty. Mr. Gilbert had been Sir Thomas Beecham's principal flautist for over 35 years, and he became our orchestra conductor and my conducting teacher. For the several years that we were together, Mr. Gilbert regaled us with stories of Sir Thomas: things he had said, stories he told and his ideas on music and composers. Sir Thomas was an extremely erudite, cultured person and a FINE musician. Some of his ideas were dated, as with his recording of MESSIAH (Which is still my favourite). But his basic philosophy was that rehearsing should be happy and everyone should make music together. In this recording he even says something about rehearsals being a waste of time, that the orchestra should begin together and end together and show some conflict along the way. That would make for an exciting performance! He is very witty, very urbane, and very musical at the same time. This recording contains some of his more famous stories and quips. This is not deep stuff, just lots of fun as we see how one of the finest musicians of our time worked his magic."