This 2-CD set marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Sir John Barbirolli (1899-1970) and features recordings ranging from boy cellist in 1911 to international conductor 1969 – in both ‘live’ and studio recordings. John Barbirolli was born in Southampton Row, Bloomsbury, on 2 December 1899, a Cockney as he proudly boasted. Or, to be accurate, Giovanni Battista Barbirolli was born, son of an Italian émigré violinist and his French wife. English-born with Italo-French parentage – a wonderful pedigree for a musician. And so it proved, for he conducted Elgar, Verdi and Debussy, Vaughan Williams, Puccini and Ravel, with equal sensitivity and perception and intuition. This album of recordings forms a kind of musical biography; and Michael Kennedy’s notes (with many rare photos) trace that life alongside the recordings. A special bonus is the 1947 Austrian Radio recording of two works, Weber’s Euryanthe overture and Delius’s Walk to the Paradise Garden, from the Salzburg Festival concert on 20 August at which he conducted the Vienna Philharmonic. Was this, Michael Kenneday asks, the first time this orchestra had played the Delius? Two rare mementos of the New York period are included in this album. Anthony Collins had long been a friend of Barbirolli (they played in the LSO together) and worked in the USA from 1936 to 1945 and his Sir Toby and Sir Andrew, based on the two comic characters in Twelfth Night, is an example of his overlooked talent. Another composer almost forgotten today is the Czech-born Jaromir Weinberger whose opera Schwanda the Bagpiper enjoyed inter-war popularity. His Christmas for organ and orchestra was composed in 1929. In 1939 he dedicated his Variations and Fugue on an old English tune, ‘Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree’ to Barbirolli and the New York Philharmonic.
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.