At least with this release it appears that all of the
contents of the issue are played by the artists on the front cover,
unlike my last encounter with this label (AUR 149-2).
All of this repertoire is already available on other
recordings by Barbirolli, and so there is no pressing reason for buying
this disc unless the specific works attract you. However as recordings
go in and out of the catalogue with depressing frequency, you may not
be able to buy all of these items at any one time.
This is a recording of a concert given in Switzerland
by a touring Halle with their chief and it displays all of the strengths
and weaknesses of a Barbirolli concert which are well known to fans
of the conductor, like myself, who heard the great man live – much foot
stamping and singing, plus the playing of the Halle can be somewhat
approximate at times. Balanced against this is the frisson of a live
performance, which often brought out the best in Sir John. I found that
the most successful way of enjoying this disc was in the car, where
the extraneous noises were less intrusive.
The recording quality is adequate, capturing as it
does the Halle’s enthusiastic brass section admirably. Audience noise
is fairly low, and so enjoyment is not reduced by various coughs and
splutters. Indeed there is a level of quiet in the Vaughan Williams
which would lead me to believe that the Swiss / Italian audience may
have been shocked into absolute silence by the newly written symphony,
dedicated to Barbirolli.
The Elizabethan Suite is fairly well known in an earlier
BBC and both of the "lollipops" are available on Dutton in
superb transfers from original LP recordings. The performances on the
current issue are fine, albeit a little rough in parts – for some, myself
included, this can in some ways be an enhancement, as the adrenaline
created by Barbirolli creates a much more interesting reading than many
of today’s note perfect, but totally dull readings of these pieces.
The very interesting notes accompanying this release
gives a very thorough evaluation of Barbirolli and his activities both
in opera and in Italy, but offer absolutely nothing on the works recorded
on this disc. Not even a mention of the relationship between the conductor
and Vaughan Williams’s dedication of his eighth symphony to "Glorious
An unusual release, but not a definite purchase – in
other words to be approached with caution.