The grand tune is the only thing in music that the great public really understands.
The humor of Sir Thomas Beecham, though tinged with cynicism, is something that I have always enjoyed reading about. Beecham was a major influence in the musical culture of Britain in the early 20th century, founding both the London Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Though a bit of a rift developed when Dennis Brain left the RPO, he is often described as being a prodigy of Beecham. Indeed, Beecham was an active impresario in addition to being a world-renowned conductor.
After Brain’s untimely death, he was noted as saying “we all felt that he came to earth just to show us that it could be done – and then he was spirited away.”
The message behind the humor
Behind the cynical wit of the quotation featured at the top of this article lies some deep truth.
While in practice we focus on finer details, audiences really wait for the big moments – or as Beecham puts it, the grand tune. Whether it is a whisper or a shout, the big tune is something to think about in every piece you perform.
And when you get there, make it grand.
Other quotes from Sir Thomas Beecham may be found here, but here is a list of some personal favorites:
- All the arts in America are a gigantic racket run by unscrupulous men for unhealthy women.
- Brass bands are all very well in their place – outdoors and several miles away.
- Composers should write tunes that chauffeurs and errand boys can whistle.
- There are two golden rules for an orchestra: start together and finish together. The public doesn’t give a damn what goes on in between.