by Raymond Holden
Conductor, cellist, arranger, teacher, broadcaster, writer and composer, Sir John Barbirolli was one of the twentieth century’s most remarkable musical polymaths. From Manchester to Melbourne, London to Lisbon, New York to Newcastle, Berlin to Brighton, Barbirolli enthralled audiences, elevated musicians and dazzled critics. As a passionate advocate of British music, he championed the works of his compatriots wherever he performed and, as a conductor of Austro-German, Italian, Russian and French masterworks, he was hailed as one of the supreme interpretative musicians of his age. This chronicle charts the course of Barbirolli’s remarkable career and is a valuable guide for all those interested in the cultural landscapes of London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, New York, Houston and Manchester, the emergence of new recording technologies, the shifting trends in programming and performance style, the rise and fall of three generations of soloists, singers and orchestral players, the rigours of orchestral life on both sides of the Atlantic and the impact of performance spaces on the interpretative process.
Raymond Holden’s book is in seven parts with a Foreword by Dame Gwyneth Jones.
PART ONE: A Life Lived Musically – a biography of Barbirolli covering the Early Years, BNOC, Early Recordings, the First HMV Period, New York Philharmonic, Hallé Orchestra, Pye, Independent Televison, First and Second HMV Periods, Houston and Berlin.
PART TWO: the Chronicle of Performances and Recordings
PART THREE: the Planned Concerts and Recordings, August 1970–July 1971
PART FOUR: the Cities and Venues
PART FIVE: the Orchestras, Opera Companies and Chamber Groups
PART SIX: the Soloists and Collaborators
PART SEVEN: the Repertoire
There are over thirty photographs from the period 1907 through to 1970
The book has been published in association with the Royal Academy of Music
The book is available in two versions:
• Limited Edition Hardback (640pp) containing the complete text and photographs
• Paperback (86pp) containing Part One and photographs, with a CD-R containing Part Two through to Part Seven
(as pdf files)
Michael Kennedy’s biography of Sir John Barbirolli was first published in 1971, the year after the conductor’s death. Written at Barbirolli’s request and with the full co-operation of Lady Barbirolli, it drew on Sir John’s private papers and on Kennedy’s friendship with im for nearly thirty years. The description of ‘Cockney Johnny’s’ childhood draws on a fragment of autobiography and from his Army days onwards, Barbirolli’s own words are freely quoted. He was a letter-writer of rare quality and these sparkling, heartfelt letters illuminate every phase of his life and reveal his underlying insecurity and his lifelong affliction by depression. The details of his feud with Beecham, the difficulties he faced ( and overcame) with the New York Philharmonic in succession to Toscanini and the sacrifice involved in his quarter century with the Hallé Orchestra are revealed, in addition to his friendship with Kathleen Ferrier, Pablo Casals, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Janet Baker. His devotion to the music of Elgar is a principal theme, almost equalled in the later stages of his career by his passion for Mahler.
For this reissue by the Barbirolli Society, Kennedy has restored some material which was omitted from the original edition and has made some revisions. There are many new illustrations, most of them not previously published, and a list of the Society’s recordings. In the thirty years since his death, Barbirolli’s reputation has soared through his recordings and many who never saw him conduct but are moved by his music-making will be equally moved by his account of one of the most lovable and fascinating of the twentieth century.
If asked to describe Sir John Barbirolli’s legacy, most questioned would mention his recordings, while few, if any, would nominate his writings, speeches and interviews. Yet during the course of his career, he was in great demand as a writer and as a public speaker. Having realized early in his professional life that the spoken word and the written text were important weapons in his musical armoury, he used them to great effect in pursuing his artistic objectives. With a manner that was open and honest, he used these tools to charm administrators, to cajole musicians and to educate audiences. By combining wit with scholarship, he left readers and listeners in no doubt of the spiritual importance of music and of its central place within the fabric of society as a whole.
For those interested in the performance, social and economic histories of music during the first seven decades of the twentieth century, or for those simply fascinated by the life and times of Barbirolli, this book is essential reading. It contains much new information about Barbirolli and charts not only his artistic aspirations and achievements but also the social and economic influences that affected his day-to-day activities as a performing musician. A CD of a recorded interview with Sir John and Michael Kennedy is included with the book.
A 126-page biographical account of Sir John’s 60-year career in the commercial recording studios and his live recordings.
The accompanying CD-R contains a fully indexed, 356-page discography, compiled and edited by David L. Jones, as well as 186 high-quality colour images of record and CD labels.