Thomas Beecham

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Sir Thomas Beecham
Caricature of Thomas Beecham, dated 1910

Sir Thomas Beecham, 2nd Baronet, CH (29 April 1879 - 8 March 1961) 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.


  • Great music is that which penetrates the ear with facility and leaves the memory with difficulty. Magical music never leaves the memory.
    • [Beecham admitted to Neville Cardus that he had made this up on the spur of the moment to satisfy an importunate journalist; he acknowledged that it was an oversimplification. (Neville Cardus: 'Sir Thomas Beecham, A Memoir', 1961)]
  • The musical equivalent of the towers of St Pancras Station
    • Of Edward Elgar's 1st symphony
    • Neville Cardus: Sir Thomas Beecham, A Memoir, (1961)
  • Too much counterpoint; what is worse, Protestant counterpoint.
    • Of J. S. Bach; quoted by Neville Cardus, Guardian, 8 March 1971
  • A musicologist is a man who can read music but can't hear it.
    • Quoted by H. Proctor-Gregg, Beecham Remembered (1976), p. 154
  • The function of music is to release us from the tyranny of conscious thought.
    • Quoted in Atkins and Newman, Beecham Stories, 1978
  • What can you do with it? It's like a lot of yaks jumping about."
    • On Beethoven's Seventh Symphony
    • Quoted in Atkins and Newman, Beecham Stories, 1978

Conductors by John L. Holmes (1988) pp 31-37 ISBN 0-575-04088-2[edit]

  • I found it as alluring as a wayward woman and determined to tame it.
  • The grand tune is the only thing in music that the great public really understands.
  • If I cannot sing a work, I cannot conduct it.
  • No composer has written as much as 100 bars of worthwhile music since 1925.

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