To the heavy, cumbersome, oversized and thoroughly enjoyable BBC Transcriptions this week for a concert by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra led by the legendary and amiable Sir Thomas Beecham in an all-Mozart program, recorded on April 28, 1947.
Starting off with the Overture to The Magic Flute and then to the Divertimento Number 2 and the Piano concerto Number 19 featuring Betty Humby Beecham, piano and ending with the Overture to The Marriage of Figaro.
In 1946, Beecham founded the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO), securing an agreement with the Royal Philharmonic Society that the new orchestra should replace the LPO at all the Society’s concerts. Beecham later agreed with the Glyndebourne Festival that the RPO should be the resident orchestra at Glyndebourne each summer. He secured backing, including that of record companies in the US as well as Britain, with whom lucrative recording contracts were negotiated. As in 1909 and in 1932, Beecham’s assistants recruited in the freelance pool and elsewhere. Original members of the RPO included James Bradshaw, Dennis Brain, Leonard Brain, Archie Camden, Gerald Jackson and Reginald Kell. The orchestra later became celebrated for its regular team of woodwind principals, often referred to as “The Royal Family”, consisting of Jack Brymer (clarinet), Gwydion Brooke (bassoon), Terence MacDonagh (oboe) and Gerald Jackson (flute).
Beecham’s long association with the Hallé Orchestra as a guest conductor ceased after John Barbirolli became the orchestra’s chief conductor in 1944. Beecham was, to his great indignation, ousted from the honorary presidency of the Hallé Concerts Society, and Barbirolli refused to “let that man near my orchestra”. Beecham’s relationship with the Liverpool Philharmonic, which he had first conducted in 1911, was resumed harmoniously after the war. A manager of the orchestra recalled, “It was an unwritten law in Liverpool that first choice of dates offered to guest conductors was given to Beecham. … In Liverpool there was one over-riding factor – he was adored.”
All peppered with witty asides, insights and observations by Sir Thomas himself. So even if you aren’t a particularly big fan of Mozart, or old recordings, just knowing the Marriage of Figaro Overture was known as “The Egg Boiler” is worth the price of admission alone.
The rest is historic icing on the cake.