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Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872 – 1958)
Symphony No. 8 in D minor – (1956)
Nicolai RIMSKY KORSAKOV (1844 – 1908)

Capriccio Espagnol, Op. 34 - (1887)
Emmanuel CHABRIER (1841 – 1894)

España – (1883)
John BARBIROLLI (1899 – 1970)

An Elizabethan Suite, arranged from keyboard pieces by various composers – (1956)
Halle Orchestra, conducted by Sir John Barbirolli.
recorded in the Teatro Kursaal, Lugano on the 11th April 1961.
AURA MUSIC AUR 181-2 [61’11"]

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 John".

An unusual release, but not a definite purchase – in other words to be approached with caution.

John Phillips


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