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<<  -- 3 --  Bill Newman    EPISODES FROM A MEMORY BANK


Much earlier, Beecham and Brooke had performed the Weber in Liverpool. The conductor grabbed him by the arm: 'Right, get packed. I want you down in London where I'm forming a new orchestra.' Gwyd turned to me: 'Remind me, which came first, was it the LPO or the other one?'

Assuring him that it was the London Philharmonic, where he stayed from 1932-6, personnel listings in Jerrold Northrop Moore's book about the orchestra with a photo of Beecham and the players in action, suggest that 'G Holbrooke' (he soon dropped the first three letters of his father's surname) was No 2 bassoon to John Alexandra -- who was still there in '47 when I first heard them. Shortly before, Beecham had deserted his band, and despite the odd flirtation the players now called the tune. I was to catch up with the newly-formed Royal Philharmonic Orchestra when Sir Thomas, who had returned from the USA where he secluded himself for 'tax' reasons, made his triumphant appearance with them at the Royal Albert Hall.

A disapproving audience greeted him in silence, whereupon he clasped his hands together with the request 'let us pray', and laughter and cheers broke out. Berlioz' Le Corsair Overture completely banished all misgivings, and the programme continued with a Delius piece. Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante K297b -- Gwydion Brooke one of the four soloists -- was followed by a sensational performance of Tchaikovsky's Pathétique Symphony in part 2. I can still clearly picture Beecham, his baton in a vice-like grip, plunging his right arm down from way over the shoulder height during the final sforzandi at the close.

Surprisingly, I got little reaction from Gwydion Brooke when describing this, but his tenure with the RPO starting from 1947 lasted fourteen years, to be followed after Beecham's death by eighteen years as Principal with the Philharmonia Orchestra. Altogether, over sixty solo performances took place.

One of his highly regarded recordings was of the Mozart Bassoon Concerto, which for some years was coupled on a long-play record with Jack Brymer's recording of the Clarinet Concerto. Beecham may or may not have been aware of certain technical shennanigans going on before the recording commenced at No 1 Studio, Abbey Road.

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Copyright © 5 April 2002 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK




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