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The Hallé Tradition
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) – Gaspar CASSADÓ (1897-1966)

Concerto in A minor adapted from the Arpeggione Sonata by Cassadó
Rosamunde D797 Overture and excerpts: Overture from Alfonso and Estrella D732; Incidental Music, Entr’acte No.1; Ballet Music No.1; Incidental Music, Entr’acte No.2 and Hirtenmelodie; Incidental Music, Entr’acte No.3; Ballet Music No.2; Overture to Rosamunde [The Magic Harp]
Gaspar Cassadó (cello)
Hallé Orchestra/Hamilton Harty
Recorded at the old Free Trade Hall, Manchester, 1927-29
Functions as CD-ROM with information about the recording and promotional material for the Hallé Orchestra


I’m sorry to say that I shall have to reproduce, in large part, my disappointment with this series of reissues of the Hallé/Harty recordings (noted in my Dvořák review), made in this case between 1927 and 1929. This is all the more dispiriting because the 1929 Harty/Cassadó recording of the latter’s arrangement (or if you prefer orchestral beefing up) of the Arpeggione Sonata is, if not rare in its original 78 guise, at least relatively uncommon. The compilers of this disc don’t claim this as its first CD incarnation though I’ve not come across an earlier version; the cellist’s much later version with the Bamberg orchestra under Perlea is on a good Cassadó Vox Box. The notes are perfectly serviceable and the disc functions as a CD-ROM with a lot of promotional material for the current Hallé – tickets and booking details et al.

Why dispiriting? Well it’s the transfer again. The all-Schubert programme is a well-chosen one and shows Harty’s reportorial strengths. He was essentially a romantic but had strong classicist strengths as well as a vocation for promoting some – at least – contemporary works, though his virtues seldom really lay in music of his own time. With the Cassadó recording one can admire the cellist’s lean, focused tone, splendidly conceived diminuendi and clever arrangement; elsewhere the pieces from Rosamunde show flair, sympathy, imagination and well executed, portamento-rich individualism. The characterful (and oft-derided) Hallé winds are on very personalised form. So far, so good. But the transfers are, once more, veiled and subterranean. If you came to these performances from this disc you’d never conceive of the old Free Trade Hall’s acoustic, or the brightness of the originals. My 78 set of the Concerto sounds brighter, richer and more life-like than this submerged affair with its ‘tubby the tuba’ bass line, desperate to eliminate the merest whisper of shellac crackle under a sauce of noise reduction. Again, because this is a series I wanted to admire, writing this is not something I enjoy – believe me, not at all. It would be wearying to mention the over-processing, scuffs and other problems that blight this issue. I’m sorry – but this is not good enough.

Jonathan Woolf


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