own record label has given us, over
the past few months, a number of very
good discs, usually of modern performances
recorded in very good digital sound.
This one is not like that; it is one
for the anorak brigade. Sir Hamilton
Harty was held in exceptionally high
regard in his day, and recorded, with
his orchestra, for Columbia. This disc
brings three of these sessions together
and whilst they are not of prime interest
to the general music lover, it does
give us the chance to hear an arrangement
of a popular chamber work for cello
and orchestra as well as the Hallé
at one of its so-called peaks of technical
The hype is somewhat
overdone I am afraid, as the aural evidence
does not support the words. The transfers
of the original 78s appear to have been
dulled down to remove surface noise.
The sound is extremely primitive (dim)
and it is difficult to imagine what
the Hallé actually sounded like
in the 1920s without a fair bit of imagination
on the listener’s part.
Given that these recordings
were made in four minute or so slices
with no chance to repair any slips,
it is clear that the Hallé was
not a bad orchestra in the 1920s. The
problem is that standards have
changed and dramatically so. By present
day attainment the standard of playing
as evidenced here is pretty basic.
By comparison with
an illustrious contemporary (the LSO
in EMI’s Elgar Edition, made around
the same time) the standards and commitment
of playing are inferior and this despite
technically speaking Elgar not being
Harty’s technical equal as a conductor.
EMI’s transfers admit a lot more surface
noise which significantly brightens
the sound, permitting a much more accurate
appreciation of the music.
Based upon a comparison
of the two issues, the Hallé
Tradition issue is disadvantaged by
the dimness of the sound. I would advise
anyone contemplating buying this issue
to try to hear it first, as you may
be bitterly disappointed. Turning up
the treble on my amplifier made a slight
difference (positive) but not enough
to rectify the position.
does not have the reputation with music
lovers that he might otherwise have
had. This was due, unfortunately, to
a mis-communication with Pablo Casals.
His fame and also the number of recordings
he made were severely curtailed, such
that apart from a two disc set of works
for cello and orchestra on a Vox double
album, there is very little of his playing
currently available. There are also
one or two discs of his playing chamber
pieces with Myra Hess and others of
the same era.
During the war, Casals
apparently published a letter in the
New York Times accusing Cassadó,
incorrectly as it was later found, of
living in the Fascist territories and
of having made himself a brilliant career
in Germany, Italy and Franco’s Spain.
In spite of an immediate rebuttal, the
damage was done and his career was almost
finished. He was later reconciled with
his hero, but the long term effect was
that now we hear very little of this
outstanding artist. In addition to playing
the cello. Cassadó was also very
active in making arrangements, and the
present example of his work is welcome.
He has taken Schubert’s Arpeggionne
Sonata and arranged it for cello
and orchestra. Whilst it in no way sounds
like an original orchestral work of
Schubert, it is nonetheless welcome.
It would make a good work to be freshly
recorded and made available on the Hallé
label, using the current band. The Rosamunde
Overture is in a different class, and
is a more encouraging example of Sir
Hamilton Harty’s art than the remainder
of the disc.
I can only give this
disc a guarded welcome. It is a pity
about the recording quality