Friday, September 17, 2010

Bach by Bartlett, Robertson and Barbirolli

This time I present a fairly rare recording of a Bach concerto by the British husband-and-wife piano duo team of Ethel Bartlett (1896-1978) and Rae Robertson (1893-1956), pictured above with tenor Peter Pears on the left.  (The picture was taken by Benjamin Britten - who wrote three works for the Robertsons - while he and Pears were staying at the couple's California home during the summer of 1941.  It was while staying here that Britten ran across a magazine article about George Crabbe, that ultimately led to the creation of his most famous opera, "Peter Grimes.")  The Robertsons were of diminutive stature - notice how Pears is standing on a lower stair in the picture - but there was nothing diminutive about their piano-playing.

This recording of Bach's Concerto in C, BWV 1061, was made in London in 1933 with a pickup orchestra conducted by John Barbiroll (who in previous years had given cello recitals with Bartlett as his accompanist).  It seems to have been the first recording of the work, although a much more famous one was made only three years later, also by HMV, featuring pianist Artur Schnabel and his son Karl Ulrich Schnabel, with Adrian Boult conducting the strings of the London Symphony.  The Bartlett-Robertson version, however, must have still had some customers, as it was much cheaper - only 8 shillings for two Plum Label records, versus 18 shillings for three Red Label records in the Schnabels' version!  In any case, the Bartlett-Robertson records remained available until 1943.

Bach: Concerto in C for two claviers and strings, BWV 1061
Ethel Bartlett and Rae Robertson, pianos
Orchestra conducted by John Barbirolli
Recorded December 20, 1933
HMV C 2648 and C 2649, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 43.19 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 18.1 MB)

Over three years ago I posted to RMCR two other Bach recordings by Ethel Bartlett, one with her husband, one with Barbirolli in one of his rare cello recordings.  These are still available for download; the details:

Bach: Organ Sonata No. 1 in E-Flat, BWV 525, arranged for two pianos
Ethel Bartlett and Rae Robertson, pianists
Recorded July 20, 1933
HMV C 2614, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC file, 21.26 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 7.94 MB)

Bach: Sonata in G, BWV 1027, for viola da gamba and harpsichord
John Barbirolli, cello, and Ethel Bartlett, piano
Recorded July 1, 1929, by Columbia
National Gramophonic Society 133-134, 2 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 35.67 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 16.13 MB)

1 comment:

  1. Many thanks for the Gould. It was perhaps my introduction - unintended - to 20th Century music. It served as the theme music for a Sunday evening network radio dramatisation of an American historical event, the programs ran circa 1954/55, perhaps using this recording. Very fond memories and of course a strong piece in the bargain. Best from ES.