Sir Thomas Beecham’s affinity for the music of Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Berlioz, Richad Strauss, Delius and Sibelius is widely documented but what is far less well known is the extraordinarily wide range of lesser known composers to whose music he turned his enquiring mind over the 61 years of his conducting career, from 1899 to 1960.
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Sir Thomas Beecham
That enquiring mind which sought out attractive music from his earliest student days and first travels overseas, remained with him throughout his long and active career resulting in his audiences being often surprised and entertained by the insertion of one of his “discoveries” into a programme of better known works from the great masters.
The three works preserved in these recordings were all written in the first half of the 20th century and appeared several times in Beecham’s programmes from 1909 to 1952. He first gave Moeran’s lively and brilliantly orchestrated Sinfonietta with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at a Royal Philharmonic Society Concert (preserved here), in April 26 1947 in the Royal Albert Hall and Moeran came to London specially for the concert. Beecham included it again in programmes in 1949 and 1950 and William McNaught wrote in The Musical Times for February 1950 that “… it was a likely guess that the players of the RPO enjoyed their parts; and something to the same effect seemed to come from Sir Thomas. His was indeed a remarkable evening’s work for he conducted as if his whole career depended on it.”
Beecham was attracted to Vincent d’Indy’s music but the work which he liked most for the originality of the score and the beauty of the music was d’indy’s symphonic triptych Jour d’été à la montagne, (Summer Day in the Mountains) written in 1905. Beecham included it in his programmes up to 1915, and in October 1951 when he was again working with the BBC Symphony Orchestra during a concert (preserved here) in the BBC Studio in Maida Vale. The work is in 3 movements; the first, Aurore, (Dawn), describes the sunlight as it enters gradually transforming night into a sunny, cloudless day.The 2nd movement, Jour, subtitled “Afternoon under the pines”) begins with a reverie of country folk under the protection of tall trees with the sun’s rays streaming through their branches. A popular dance which is heard in the distance soon becomes a Scherzo in C. At the very end of the movement the music quietly fades in the late afternoon with the last iterations of the scherzo played by a clarinet, horn and bassoon. The 3rd movement is called Soir and here the sun gradually sends its last rays through the treetops as the cold night returns.
The Berners Ballet Suite The Triumph of Neptune was quite a favourite of Sir Thomas among English works and he included it in at least thirty of his concerts. Lord Berners was commissioned by Diaghilev to write this ballet and based it on a Harlequinade by Sacheverel Sitwell, with choreography by Balanchine in 1926. The music abounds with touches of wit and humour. Here it’s preserved in a special recording at the Davis Theatre, Croydon in 1946. The rest of the programme is available on SOMM-BEECHAM 19, The RPO – The Early Days).
On This Recording
- Sinfonietta: I. Allegro con brio
- Sinfonietta: II. Tema con variazioni
- Sinfonietta: III. Allegro risoluto
- Jour d’ete a la montagne: I. Aurore
- Jour d’ete a la montagne: II. Jour (Apres-midi sous les pins)
- Jour d’ete a la montagne: III. Soir
- The Triumph of Neptune: I. Harlequinade
- The Triumph of Neptune: II. Dance of the Fairy Princess
- The Triumph of Neptune: III. Schottische
- The Triumph of Neptune: IV. Cloudland
- The Triumph of Neptune: V. Sunday Morning
- The Triumph of Neptune: VI. Polka
- The Triumph of Neptune: VII. Hornpipe
- The Triumph of Neptune: IX. Apotheosis