Thomas Beecham

(1879—1961) conductor

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(b St Helens, 1879; d London, 1961).

Eng. conductor and impresario. First appearance was as cond. of Hallé Orch. at St Helens, 1899. Educated Rossall School and Wadham College, Oxford. Studied comp. with Charles Wood. Early ambition to be composer, but took up cond. instead. Came to the fore about 1905 when he founded New Sym. Orch. In 1910, with backing of his father, the industrialist Sir Joseph Beecham, staged season of opera at CG at which Elektra had first Eng. perf., also A Village Romeo and Juliet and The Wreckers. Cond. f. Eng. ps. of Der Rosenkavalier (CG 1913) and Ariadne auf Naxos (1st vers.) (London 1913). Brought Diaghilev's Ballets Russes to London 1913–14. Thereafter there was hardly a feature of Eng. mus. life with which Beecham was not closely, often controversially, and always artistically involved. Assoc. with most leading Brit. orchs. Founded Beecham SO 1909, Beecham Opera Co. 1915, LPO 1932, and RPO 1946. Salzburg Fest. 1931 (Vienna PO). NY Met début 1942 (Phoebus and Pan (Bach)/The Golden Cockerel). In decade preceding Second World War was art. dir. of Royal Opera House, CG. Cond. many Amer. orchs. Ardent champion of Delius, about whom he wrote a book, and cond. f.ps. of his A Mass of Life (1909), Songs of Sunset (1911), North Country Sketches (1915), Cynara (1929), Koanga (CG 1935), Florida Suite (1937), and Irmelin (Oxford 1953). Notable interpreter of Mozart, Haydn, Sibelius, Strauss, and Fr. composers of 19th cent. Thrice married. Knighted 1915, 2nd baronet 1916, CH 1957. Autobiography A Mingled Chime (London, 1944).

Subjects: Music.

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