Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sir Thomas Beecham

Pato notes today the birthday of British conductor and musician Sir Thomas Beecham (1879-1961)in St Helen's England. Beecham was a major influence on the musical life of Britain through his founding of two orchestras (Royal Philharmonic and the London Philharmonic), advocacy of British music, and his support of British opera companies such as Covent Garden and Drury Lane.

He was also a bit of a "bon mot" and held many of his colleagues in low esteem while holding others in high regard. There was no middle ground with Sir Thomas...whether you are speaking of opinions about him or ones he held about others.

I note his birth, not so much with his musical legacy but with some of his quotes:

"The sound of a harpsichord - two skeletons copulating on a tin roof in a thunderstorm."

In the first movement alone, I took note of six pregnancies and at least four miscarriages." Sir Thomas on Bruckner's Seventh Symphony

"What can you do with it? It's like a lot of yaks jumping about." Sir Thomas commenting on Beethoven's Seventh Symphony

Sir Thomas was once asked if he had played any Stockhausen. "No," he replied, "but I have trodden in some."

"Madam, you have between your legs an instrument capable of giving pleasure to thousands and all you can do is scratch it." Sir Thomas to a lady cellist..Imagine if he had said that today!

"We cannot expect you to be with us all the time, but perhaps you could be good enough to keep in touch now and again." Sir Thomas speaking to a musician during a rehearsal

"Her singing reminds me of a cart coming downhill with the brake on." Sir Thomas on an unidentified soprano in Die Walk├╝re

Beecham met a lady whom he recognised but whose name he couldn't remember. After some preliminaries about the weather, and desperately racking his memory, he asked how she was.

"Oh, very well, but my brother has been rather ill lately."
"Ah, yes, your brother. I'm sorry to hear that. And, er, what is your brother doing at the moment?"
"Well... he's still King," replied Princess Mary.

Some of these, over time, have been found to be apocryphal, but are none the less great fun!

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