C0028. SIR THOMAS BEECHAM Cond. Royal Phil.; Luton Choral Society, Elsie Suddaby, Marjorie Thomas, Heddle Nash & Trevor Anthony: MESSIAH, preceded by Beecham’s pre-performance mini-lecture; Beecham Cond.: Amaryllis - Suite; Israel in Egypt – Three Choruses (the latter from Live Performance, 3 Oct., 1934, Leeds Festival) (all Handel); Christmas Oratorio – Sinfonia (Bach). (England) 3-Biddulph WHL 059/61, recorded 1947. Transfers by Mark Obert-Thorn. Very long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy of this major CD rarity! - 744718306121
“[This MESSIAH]…remains one of the tiny handful of truly stellar MESSIAH recordings, one of those that sets a standard against which all others must be judged. The quartet of soloists, Elsie Suddaby, Marjorie Thomas, Heddle Nash and Trevor Anthony, were all in superb voice, and Beecham adjusted the size of his choir to fit the character of the individuial choruses.”
- Alan Blyth, CHORAL MUSIC ON RECORD, p.86
“[Heddle Nash] could have charmed the very birds off the trees. There were those who maintained that he sang Mozart better even than McCormack or Tauber. His fioriture in Rossini were as fluent de Lucia’s, or anybody else’s; his Handelian runs were as flexibly firm as Widdop’s. His legato, supple and floating free, was exemplary….”
- Eric Rees, THE RECORD COLLECTOR, 1996
“No other conductor could possibly have got away with saying: ‘There are two golden rules for an orchestra: start together and finish together. The public doesn't give a damn what goes on in between’. Beecham's talent for aphorism risks overshadowing his achievements as a a musician. But musicians who worked under him - and orchestral players are often a vituperative lot - still recall ‘Tommy’ with extraordinary fondness.
In 1899, Hans Richter, due to conduct the Hallé Orchestra in a concert in St Helen's, fell ill; Joseph Beecham, who was mayor, declared that his prodigiously talented 20-year-old son should step in. From there, the young conductor - entirely self-taught - moved on in leaps and bounds. He founded a Beecham Symphony Orchestra in 1909 and a Beecham Opera Company in 1915. At the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, he conducted the UK premieres of Wagner's DIE MEISTERSINGER and Richard Strauss' DER ROSENKAVALIER, ELEKTRA and SALOME; during the 1930s he presented the greatest singers of the day there, including Lauritz Melchior, Lotte Lehmann and Kirsten Flagstad, raising sponsorship himself. He founded the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 1932, and in 1946 the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He excelled in Mozart, French music and a range of German repertoire.
Beecham also faced controversy. His finances and personal life were often respectively precarious and volatile; and he is sometimes criticised for decamping to the US during the war - though Lady Beecham defends him by pointing out that he had long-standing engagements to honour in Australia and the US in 1940 and then couldn't get home across the Atlantic. Before that, in 1936, he had taken the newly founded LPO to Germany, where Hitler was in the audience. Why did they go? ‘He was proud of them’, says Lady Beecham, ‘and he wanted to take them to a country where there were many fine orchestras to show them what a fine orchestra it was’. The story rings of an extraordinary figurative nose-thumbing that only Beecham could have carried off. Dr Berta Geissmar, personal assistant to conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, was Jewish and had fled the Nazi regime for London, where Beecham promptly employed her as his secretary. ‘And he took her with him to Germany’, says Lady Beecham. ‘She was absolutely terrified for the whole tour that they'd take her away. But with him beside her, they could do nothing at all’. At the Berlin concert, when he saw Hitler applauding, Beecham turned to the orchestra and said, ‘The old bugger seems to like it!’ The remark went out on the radio across Europe. Had Beecham really forgotten that the concert was being broadcast?”
- THE GUARDIAN, 6 April 2001