excerpt from 'In the Orchestra' pp. 92-93 (390 words)

excerpt from 'In the Orchestra' pp. 92-93 (390 words)

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In the Orchestra

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I recall the day well; it was a Saturday afternoon in late September 1946, and I was home at last in Norbury after leaving the RAF. For some reason the radio has been left playing quite loudly and crossing the room to turn it down I was suddenly halted in mid-stride by the incredible sound which came from it. It was Sibelius' Tapiola - and I had not heard such playing anywhere for some years. The wild winds of the northern forest of Finland were screaming through the rent pinewoods, wolves were howling in the dark depths, and Tappio, the god of all this, was on the rampage. I called to my wife Joan, 'It sounds to me as if Beecham is back. Have you got the Radio Times handy?' She had, and it confirmed my diagnosis. This was in fact the second concert of Beecham's new Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, playing at the Davis Theatre, Croydon - a huge cinema which could stage this sort of programme adequately when not showing films. Not being a professional player at the time, I had missed the first concert, two weeks earlier, but was now able to catch up with the details of the new orchestra. Not unnaturally, the personnel was the result of a great deal of pilfering. Key players had been borrowed or stolen from several other orchestras, some of them permanently, like the oboeist [sic] Peter Newbury from the LPO and the excellent trumpet player Richard Walton who was still the property of the Brigade of Guards. Other simply played when they could, and then disappeared again into the Philharmonia Orchestra; Reginald Kell the clarinettist, James Bradshaw the timpanist and Dennis Brain, who somehow managed to sustain the activities of first horn in both orchestras for three years. The strings were a little less star-studded, but with Beecham in front and some very skilful leading in all sections they somehow became most convincing. The concert master was John Pennington, erstwhile leader of the London Quartet and later of several American orchestras which Beecham had conducted. Raymond Clark led the cellos, John Sylvester the basses, and both were amongst the world's greatest. It was further back in the sections that weakness showed itself, because there just wasn't a sufficient number of first-class players in London, not tied down by other orchestras.

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excerpt from 'In the Orchestra' pp. 92-93 (390 words)


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