Beecham, Sir Thomas

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Beecham, Sir Thomas

Sir Thomas Beecham (bē´chəm), 1879–1961, English conductor. Beecham was educated at Oxford but did not attend any formal music school. Early in his career as a conductor and producer, he introduced his fellow countrymen to the operas of Richard Strauss, many Russian operas, and the Russian ballet. In 1932 he organized the London Philharmonic Orchestra, forging it into one of the world's finest orchestras, and in 1932 he became artistic director of Covent Garden Opera, London. A frequent conductor of the Hallé Orchestra, Manchester until 1942, he later appeared (1942–43) with the New York Philharmonic and with the Metropolitan Opera, New York. In 1946 he organized the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London.

Beecham wrote a biography (1958) of Delius, whose music he championed; he also excelled at interpreting Mozart, Haydn, Handel, Berlioz, and Sibelius. He was known for his exquisite phrasing, his ability to masterfully unfold a melodic line, his fine sense of proportion, his combination of power and delicacy, and his insight into the unique styles of various composers. For his services to British music, Beecham was knighted in 1916; he also had enormous international influence. His versatility and high standards of excellence are attested to by numerous recordings.

See his autobiography (1944); biography by C. Reid (1961).

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