Friday, October 29, 2010

Howard Barlow conducts Vaughan Williams

Here's a delightful recording conducted by the all-but-forgotten Howard Barlow (1892-1972), a broadcasting pioneer and champion of unusual repertoire (you can find a nice appreciation of his legacy here).  This is of Gordon Jacob's orchestration of Vaughan Williams' military band classic, the English Folk Song Suite (1923).  In 1940, when this recording was issued, this may well have seemed unusual repertoire, and indeed it appears to be the first (and, in the 78-rpm era, only) recording of the 1924 Jacob orchestration, which has since become standard.

Of course, for me, a good excuse to listen to any Barlow-Columbia Symphony recording is to hear the beautiful oboe playing of Mitch Miller, and here he doesn't disappoint - just listen to that oboe solo at the beginning of the second movement!

This recording was also issued, naturally enough, in England, and was reviewed in the September 1940 issue of The Gramophone.  The recording was still listed in the 1954-55 UK Columbia Catalogue, though it was slated for deletion with that issue.

Vaughan Williams (arr. Jacob): English Folk Song Suite
Columbia Broadcasting Symphony, conducted by Howard Barlow
Recorded December 19, 1939
Columbia Masterworks set X-159, two 10-inch 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 29.41 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 15.45 MB)


  1. Bryan,

    I've loved this piece ever since my high school days when we near massacred it! I have fond memories of the first recording I ever heard of this (in either band or orchestra arr) by Morton Gould.

    Thanks much!


  2. Thanks Bryan - this looks like a real find. More Mitch as well!

  3. Ah, Bryan - you beat me to this set!

    Thanks for posting these sides. It is a wonderful performance from a conductor whose is all but forgotten today. And I was unaware of Miller's playing in this orchestra.

    - Bill

  4. Bryan,

    Don Tait mentioned that Barlow conducted Goldmark's Rustic Wedding symphony. Do you have that recording? It would make an awesome post, I think.



  5. Hey Fred - sorry I don't have the Rustic Wedding. I did, long ago, and remember it was a fine performance. (Bill, if you have it, that's one I couldn't possibly beat you to... ;-) The only other Barlow I have is the Deems Taylor "Looking Glass" suite, which is on my "to do" list.

  6. Thanks, this is lovely! Did you see that Damian posted excerpts from Jacobs' William Byrd Suite played by the Coldstream Guards?

  7. How do you know Mitch Miller is the oboist? Just from listening? I ask because I would like to know who the clarinetist is. There were four prominent clarinetists in the late 1930s who played principal clarinet in the CBS Symphony. From listening I think I know which one is the clarinetist on this recording but I can't be sure without some supporting documentation.

    Thanks for making these recordings available.

    1. Mitch is actually credited on the label - just for Side 2, and he's the only one to receive such a credit. Sorry can't help with identifying the clarinetist.