COVER SJB1082 Czech PO

Barbirolli conducts the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra

SJB 1082

For Barbirolli, the 1950s and 60s became a golden age for his art and the gramophone, and his reputation became more widespread than those famous recordings of his from the 1930s with the London Philharmonic, London Symphony, and New York Philharmonic Orchestras which originallly established his name on disc. Having first visited the Prague Spring Festival in 1958 with the Hallé, making a considerable impact in the then communist country of Czechoslovakia (a concert from that visit is available on the Barbirolli Society label SJB 1083) a return engagement to Prague for Barbirolli became an urgent necessity – for him alone if necessary.

And so, almost two years later to the day, we can hear part of the programme he gave with the Czech Philharmonic in May 1960, comprising his own Elizabethan Suite and Mahler’s First Symphony. The Mahler is a performance of rare quality, the players responding to this late 19th-century evocation of their Bohemian provenance with demonstrable love and affection, keen to impress their distinguished conductor with their dedication to the recreation of this masterpiece. The remaining work in the programme was a Concerto for Two Pianos by Jan Dussek (released on CD by Supraphon) in which the soloists were František Maxián and Jan Panenka. For his second visit, Barbirolli spent more than a week in Prague, and nine days before conducting the concert recorded here, he was interviewed on Czech Radio (included as a bonus track on this CD), in which conversation he discussed his impressions of the Prague Spring Festival, the great Czech conductor Václav Talich (who was to die less than a year later) and the city itself.

The recordings are from the archives of Czech Radio and are published here for the first time.