Thomas Beecham

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Sir Thomas Beecham
Caricature of Thomas Beecham, dated 1910

Sir Thomas Beecham, 2nd Baronet (29 April 18798 March 1961) was a British conductor. He founded several British orchestras. From the early twentieth century until his death, Beecham was a dominant influence on the musical life of Britain.


  • 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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