In 1933 Evelyn Rothwell (1911-2008) had been working for two years in her first professional post as second oboist in the orchestra of the Covent Garden Touring Company, when she received an invitation to audition for the position as first oboe in the Scottish Orchestra. Her progress to the point where she was eligible to be considered for such a post had been rapid, for she had only started to play her chosen instrument a few years earlier in her late teens. She had spent some time with Léon Goossens as a student at the Royal College of Music. Evelyn Rothwell gave the first performance of the Pergolesi Concerto in December 1935, with Barbirolli conducting the Scottish Orchestra. In 1939 Evelyn Rothwell married Barbirolli, and joined him in the USA, where he had been musical director of the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra for three years.
At one concert, Evelyn Barbirolli played the Pergolesi Concerto, and she was heard by the Australian composer Arthur Benjamin. Benjamin was very taken by the arrangement, and offered to put together a similar work based on music by Domenico Cimarosa. Nothing was heard from him until the Barbirollis were leaving Vancouver by train on a journey to Los Angeles, where John was engaged to conduct concerts at the Hollywood Bowl. The train was already starting to move when Benjamin suddenly appeared and thrust the newly completed score into the surprised Evelyn’s hands. In 1945 John Barbirolli put together his second concerto arrangement for his wife to play, this time using pieces by Corelli. Here he selected five movements from sonatas for violin and basso continuo, transcribing the violin part for oboe and elaborating the figured bass of the originals into an accompaniment for string orchestra. In both this work and the Pergolesi concerto Barbirolli took care to preserve the spirit and style of the original compositions. Previous editions of the Marcello recording have carried the information that it is played in an arrangement by Bonelli, though in fact Lady Barbirolli always played her own version of the work.
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