ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF GLORIOUS JOHN
This album is really 'Glorious John' from his very first beginnings as a
cellist in 1911 right to the 'beloved memory' of 'Sheep may safely graze'
in 1969. It is a testament to one of Britain's finest conductors ever, a
true champion of the podium, figures like him are sadly no longer with us
but those fortunate enough to have knew him will rejoice in this embarasse
de riches, as I a recent convert of this spellbinding artist rejoiced. Van
Biene's 'Broken Melody' starts us off this voyage and here one admires the
bowing of Sir John accompanied by his trustworthy sister Rosa. It is apt
that the first operatic excerpts should be Italian, indeed Zanelli's 'Niun
mi tema' is shattering for its unrestrained emotion, one could almost imagine
'Tita' groaning along with him! Particularly interesting are the Balfe 'Bohemian
Girl' Overture and Weinberger's 'Christmas' recorded with a Symphony Orchestra
and the NYPSO which were never to feature in later recordings. The same could
be said of the delightful 'Sir Toby' Overture by Anthony Collins, remarkable
for its drive and verve. The first disc ends with a wonderful 'Euryanthe'
and a mesmerizing 'Walk' by Delius both featuring the war ravaged VPO in
performances that have to be heard to be believed.
The second disc is exclusive Hallé territory. Stravinsky's 'Concerto
in D' comes to life in a remarkably precise performance whilst the delightful
Mozart 'Cassation' and Minuet from Divertimento No. 11 makes us feel a bit
perplexed why Barbirolli did not record more Mozart. Probably to make way
for his beloved Grieg whose Lyric Pieces sound so exquisitely heart-warming
that one almost cringes with pleasure when listening to this particular 'Secret'.
The Villa Lobos Bachianas Brasilieras No 4 is full of fantasy and imagination
particulary in the expansive 'Corale' With the wonderful 'Gold and Silver'
waltz and the ethereally slow 'Sheep may safely graze' we are almost at an
end of Sir John's long career. The Bach is particularly beautiful the music
almost groaning along, so reminiscent of Sir John's way with the composer's
he loved, that is squeezing every last drop of emotion out of the notes.
The disc is supplemented by a delightful rehearsal sequence with Sir John
singing along to Berlioz and a splendidly charismatic interview with Ronald
Kinloch Anderson espousing on the various stages of the conductor's chequered
career. This album is a wonderful treasure, indeed it is a tribute to 'Glorious
John of beloved memory'.