SJB 1089

John Barbirolli’s professional career began at a cellist’s desk in an orchestra and in a string quartet. Although he was a good enough cellist to give one of the early performances of the Elgar concerto (in the first performance of which in 1919 he played in the orchestra) he always intended that the conductor’s rostrum should be his ultimate destination.

This CD features recordings of the John Barbirolli Chamber Orchestra made for HMV in the Small Queen’s Hall, London between 1928 and 1929.

It is remarkable that John Barbirolli, a young and comparatively unknown conductor, should have recorded Elgar’s ‘Introduction and Allegro’ within two years but it is a salutary reminder that it needed a string-player-conductor to perceive its greatness. His first recording was for NGS and then followed the HMV recording in 1929. Barbirolli himself said that Elgar spoke to him about the recording and said: ‘I’d no idea it was such a big piece’. It sounds it, too, in the HMV performance reproduced here.

Barbirolli arranged a ‘Suite for Strings’ from music by Purcell for his own chamber orchestra to play – on this disc we hear the Hornpipe taken from the incidental music for ‘The Married Beau’. Also included is the rarely heard suite The Merchant of Venice by Frederick Rosse.

Haydn’s Symphony No.104 ‘London’ played an important part in Barbirolli’s career, for when in 1927 the the London Symphony Orchestra invited their former cellist to take the indisposed Beecham’s place, he substituted it for the Mozart symphony that Beecham had planned.