Friday, February 17, 2012

"Glorious John"

Sir John Barbirolli and Ralph Vaughan Williams on the occasion of the première of the latter's Sinfonia Antartica, 1953
"Glorious John" - that was Ralph Vaughan Williams' nickname, and subsequently everybody else's, for Sir John Barbirolli (1899-1970), and it comes from the inscription on the score of Vaughan Williams' Eighth Symphony - "for glorious John, with love and admiration from Ralph."  Barbirolli also received the dedication of Vaughan Williams' previous symphony, the Sinfonia Antartica.  Well, here's the first recording by "Glorious John" of a Vaughan Williams symphony, made a decade before these dedications, exactly sixty-eight years ago today (I didn't plan it that way, either!):

Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 5 in D Major
Hallé Orchestra conducted by John Barbirolli
Recorded February 17, 1944
HMV C 7599 through C 7603, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 96.06 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 41.13 MB)

This was Barbirolli's second-ever recording with the Hallé Orchestra (the first was of Bax's Third Symphony), of which he had assumed control beginning with the 1943-44 season, having returned to England fron New York.  There, as director of the Philharmonic-Symphony, he had had a rocky relationship with the music critics, who constantly compared him unfavorably with Toscanini, whom he had succeeded as the Philharmonic's music director.  While in New York, however, Barbirolli had made some important recordings, first for Victor and then for Columbia, including symphonies by Sibelius (the First and Second), Schubert (the Fourth) and this brisk, bracing account of Mozart's "little G minor" symphony:

Mozart: Symphony No. 25 in G minor, K. 183
Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York conducted by John Barbirolli
Recorded November 3, 1941
Columbia Masterworks set MX-217, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 53.51 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 32.51 MB)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this - as, due to the 1988 Gramophone review, this was one release I decided not to buy (HMV Treasury - coupled with RVW conducting his 4th) - also as comment was made about instances of the Halle's 'unrefined' playing: something I feel affected Barbirolli's Bax: Symphony 3.