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Thomas Beecham & Betty Beecham. Concert of works by Mozart April 28, 1947
24.01.2015, 22:35

Sir Thomas Beecham

(29 April 1879 – 8 March 1961)

Sir Thomas Beecham was an English conductor and impresario best known for his association with the London Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic orchestras. He was also closely associated with the Liverpool Philharmonic and Hallé orchestras. From the early 20th century until his death, Beecham was a major influence on the musical life of Britain and, according to the BBC, was Britain's first international conductor. Born to a rich industrial family, Beecham began his career as a conductor in 1899. He used his access to the family fortune to finance opera from the 1910s until the start of the Second World War, staging seasons at Covent Garden, Drury Lane and His Majesty's Theatre with international stars, his own orchestra and a wide repertoire. Among the works he introduced to England were Richard Strauss's Elektra, Salome and Der Rosenkavalier and three operas by Frederick Delius. Together with his younger colleague Malcolm Sargent, Beecham founded the London Philharmonic, and he conducted its first performance at the Queen's Hall in 1932. In the 1940s, he worked for three years in the United States, where he was music director of the Seattle Symphony and conducted at the Metropolitan Opera. After his return to Britain, he founded the Royal Philharmonic in 1946 and conducted it until his death in 1961. Beecham's repertoire was eclectic, sometimes favouring lesser-known composers over famous ones. His specialities included composers whose works were neglected in Britain before he became their advocate, such as Delius and Berlioz. Other composers with whose music he was frequently associated were Haydn, Schubert, Sibelius and the composer he revered above all others, Mozart.

Betty Humby Beecham

(1908 – 2 September 1958)

Betty Humby was the daughter of Daniel Morgan Humby, a dentist and member of the Royal College of Surgeons. At the age of 10, she was the youngest ever person to win a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music. When she was 14, she taught 30 pupils of her own, and two years later she became a piano professor, under Myra Hess at Tobias Matthay's London music school. Later she married an Anglican parson, Rev. H. Cashel Thomas, who in the early 1940s was vicar of St. Philip's in London. They had a son, Sir Jeremy Cashel Thomas, born June 1, 1931. With the outbreak of World War II, Betty Humby Thomas organized concerts in British cathedrals. In 1940, she left Britain for the United States with her young son Jeremy. While in the U.S. she hoped to raise money for London's Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children, where her brother was chief surgeon. Having met in the 1930s in England, in the U.S., Betty Humby Thomas and Sir Thomas Beecham were reintroduced by Andrew Schulhof, who managed each of them. He later arranged for them to perform the Delius piano concerto together in June 1941 at a studio concert for CBS. Humby married Beecham on January 19, 1943, one month after a divorce was granted from his wife Utica Celestia Welles. According to John Lucas's biography, Thomas Beecham: An Obsession with Music, they were married in secret before a police justice in Manhattan. They lived in New York City at 31 East 79th Street. Her best-known recording is probably that of the Delius concerto, with her husband conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, in 1946, shortly after he had founded it. This recording of October 1946 replaced an earlier version, made with the London Philharmonic Orchestra on October 3, 1945, which was not released. According to the Lucas biography, her performance of the Delius concerto at Lafayette, Indiana, on December 1, 1950, marked the end of Lady Betty's playing career. She died of a heart attack in Argentina in 1958. She was 49.


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The Magic Flute, K. 620 - Overture

Divertimento in B-flat major, K.137/125b

Piano Concerto No. 19 in F major, KV 459

Betty Beecham, piano

The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492 - Overture

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Sir Thomas Beecham



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