Sunday, November 7, 2010

Gladys Ripley sings "Sea Pictures"

This post features the British contralto Gladys Ripley (1908-1955), a beautiful woman with a beautiful voice, whose life, sadly, was cut short by throat cancer at the age of 47 (the age I am now!).  Here she sings Elgar's fine orchestral song cycle, "Sea Pictures" (composed in 1897-99) with, as a filler, a surprisingly gloomy song by Haydn, "The Spirit's Song" ("Hark! Hark what I tell to thee").  This 1946 recording features the collaboration of that greatly underrated conductor, George Weldon (1908-1963), who conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra.

Elgar: Sea Pictures, Op. 37 (+ Haydn: The Spirit's Song)
Gladys Ripley, contralto
Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by George Weldon
Recorded May 28, 1946
HMV C 3498 through C 3500, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 63.46 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 32.17 MB)

I have up several other George Weldon recordings with the orchestra of which he was Music Director from 1944 to 1951, the City of Birmingham Orchestra.  (That's Birmingham, England, of course - not Birmingham, Alabama! Those of us here in the Southern US have to be reminded of that periodically.)  The first of these is a new offering, and the others are re-uploads of transfers I made over three years ago; however, the Dvořák symphony upload now contains scans of the booklet for the set that I was unable to provide earlier.  Here are the details:

Sibelius: King Christian II Suite - Elegie and Musette
City of Birmingham Orchestra, conducted by George Weldon
Recorded March 22, 1945
Columbia DX 1220, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC files, 18.53 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 7.76 MB)

Edward German: Welsh Rhapsody
City of Birmingham Orchestra, conducted by George Weldon
Recorded April 16, 1945
Columbia DX 1274 and 1275, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 43.43 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 19.7 MB)

Dvořák: Symphony No. 5 in F, Op. 76, and
Glinka: Ruslan and Ludmilla - Overture
City of Birmingham Orchestra, conducted by George Weldon
Recorded June 25-27, 1945 (Dvořák) and June 7, 1946 (Glinka)
Columbia DX 1315 through 1319, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 105.57 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 48.23 MB)

For those interested in reading further about George Weldon, there's a free downloadable biography (in PDF format) available here.


  1. Thanks Bryan - I enjoy Weldon's recordings, and don't have these, except for (maybe) the Sea Pictures. I had no idea there was a bio of Weldon, so thanks for that as well!

  2. Hey Buster, I didn't know of the Weldon bio myself, until researching for this post! He and Ripley actually did the Sea Pictures twice - there was a second recording in 1954, with the London Symphony. I don't have that one.

  3. Bryan - now that you mention it, that's the version of Sea Pictures I do have! Don't have this earlier one.

  4. Thanks a lot for these beautiful records and the Weldon information!

  5. My music teacher, an orchestral player, said that Mr Weldon prided himself on getting from Birmingham to London in an hour and ten minutes (not possible today) in his E-type Jaguar. He did this journey once for an Abbey road recording of 'The Fair Day' from Hamilton Harty's Irish Symphony. To listen to the fantastic Philharmonia players under his stick you would surmise he was still driving.

  6. Gladys Ripley, in my opinion, had the best lyric contralto voice in British history, even more so than Kathleen Ferrier or Janet Baker (both were also excellent but lacked the emotional passion and shimmering beauty of Ripley's voice).Her recording of songs from The Vagabond King in 1925 would have you believe she was in at least her thirties instead of 17! Thank you for bringing her wondrous voice into the 21st Century, and George Weldon knows how to get the best sound possible out of an orchestra!