When Barbirolli took over the Hallé in 1943, he soon electrified Manchester’s and other audiences with his interpretation of the Second Symphony. In this Barbirolli Society compilation four of the symphonies are included. The recording of the First was made on 30 and 31 December 1957 for Pye. He had recorded it with the New York Philharmonic in April 1942 and made another Hallé recording (for EMI) in December 1966. The recording of the Second, a Barbirolli favourite, was made for LP on 18 and 19 December 1952. His interpretation broadened slightly in later years, but this performance captures the fiery intensity he brought to the work in those first years in the new Free Trade Hall.
Barbirolli recorded the Fifth Symphony for Pye on 28 May 1957 (included in this set) and for HMV on 26-28 July 1966, both times with the Hallé. The symphony had a long and arduous gestation lasting from 1914 to 1919. Barbirolli included the Fifth Symphony in an Edinburgh Festival programme with the Hallé in 1948, the festival’s second year. The veteran critic of the Sunday Times, Ernest Newman, had not heard him conduct for over 20 years and wrote: “Of the Sibelius I do not hope ever to hear a more splendidly convincing performance. It was an inexpressible pleasure to see for once a great work gradually taking shape in performance as it must have done in the mind of the creator…” The Seventh Symphony is the ultimate expression of Sibelius’s method of fusion and fission. The recording was made for 78s by Sir John and the Hallé on 3 and 5 March 1949.
He recorded it again on 26-28 July 1966. He re-creates masterfully the extraordinarily powerful atmosphere of the work, from the rising scale with which it begins, the thrice-repeated trombone theme, the dazzling scherzo section and the sense of inevitable progression from darkness to light. The Swan of Tuonela began as an overture to an opera which Sibelius abandoned, but he used it as the second of the four movements of the Lemminkäinen suite. Tuonela is the Finnish Hades on which the black swan glides, singing as it goes back and forth. It is one of the most evocative pieces ever written for the cor anglais, which represents the swan, and in this performance, recorded on 12 January 1955, the solo is superbly played by Roger Winfield.
Symphony No. 2 in D, op.43: I. Allegretto
II. Tempo andante, ma rubato
IV. Finale. Allegro moderato
The Swan of Tuonela
Symphony No. 7 in C, op.105
Symphony No. 1 in e, op.39: I. Andante, ma non troppo-Allegro energico
II. Andante (ma non troppo lento)
III. Scherzo (Allegro)
IV. Finale: Quasi una fantasia(Andante-Allegro molto)
Symphony No. 5 in E flat, op.82: I. Tempo molto moderato-Allegro moderato-Presto
II. Andante mosso, quasi allegretto
III. Allegro molto-un pochettino langamente
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.