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Introduction & Allegro. (1947/1956 versions),
Elegy (1947/1956 versions),
Enigma Variations,
Symphony No. 1,
Bavarian Dance No. 2; 'Lullaby'.
Hallé Orchestra Sir John Barbirolli.
Dutton Laboratories/Barbirolli Society CDSJB 1017 117m ADD.

This album is called 'The Barbirolli Elgar Album' and betrays the deep love that this charismatic conductor professed for his brother in music. It is to Barbirolli's credit that the Elgar flame continued to blaze so brightly in the post-war years for, together with the outstanding Boult, he was eager to programme as much music as possible and enshrined his interpretations in a series of recordings that have remained first choices for almost fifty years. This can certainly be said with regard to the 1956 version of the First Symphony. This reading is more desirable than his later EMI version with the Philharmonia, not only for its more reasonable tempi but also for the dramatic swagger that Barbirolli could conjure from the Hallé players. The Andante nobilmente is particularly imposing with that great theme fairly squeezed out of the orchestra whilst the excitement of the Finale is pure unbuttoned Elgarian pomp and circumstance. The two versions of the Introduction and Allegro and the Elegy are not fundamentally different although the earlier mono recordings have slightly faster tempi. However it is good to have them both on this album as one can compare the interpretations. This leads us to the 'Enigma'. Of late I have been listening to Sargent, Boult and van Beinum in this timeless work and have also recently discovered a magnificent Beecham version on a Philips 10 inch LP. Barbirolli's reading is slightly excitable compared to these but otherwise it is a true tribute to this marvelous idea. Comparing it with the later EMI version reveals a slight broadening of pace in that recording but no real interpretative differences. The charming 'Lullaby' is enchantingly done and makes a delightful conclusion to what is obviously a self recommending issue for all Barbirolli devotees. Extensive Michael Kennedy notes and state of the art Michael Dutton remastering add to the allure of this magnificent reissue.


Gerald Fenech




Gerald Fenech

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