Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Symphony No.9 in C major D.944 (1825–28) [48:03]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) – Gaspar CASSADÓ (1897-1966)
Concerto in A minor adapted from the Arpeggione Sonata D821 (1824) by Gaspar Cassadó [23:43]
Gaspar Cassadó (cello)
Hallé Orchestra/Hamilton Harty
rec. January 1928, possibly at Fyvie Hall, London (Symphony) and March 1929, Central Hall, Westminster (Concerto)

Hamilton Harty conducted two important Schubert recordings at the end of the 1920s. Schubert was in the air at the time, as 1928 marked the centenary of his death, an event that occasioned a flurry of recordings. In January of that year, quick off the mark, Columbia recorded him with his Hallé Orchestra in the Ninth Symphony in what detective work suggests was Fyvie Hall in London. Most of the selected takes were the third, though there are three first takes in the fourteen issued sides; no second takes at all, which is unusual.

This distinguished, personalised reading is fascinating to hear. At the time the Hallé was regularly upstaging London orchestras, even the LSO, and it was during this time that the visits of the New York Philharmonic-Symphony under Toscanini, Berlin Philharmonic under Furtwängler and the Hallé itself, spurred the formation first of the BBC Symphony and then Beecham’s LPO. What one hears from the Hallé is, first, the very unusual tone and phrasing of the horn statements, and the wind voice leading. Harty encourages a rather unblended approach in contradistinction to his contemporary Beecham whose performances were notable for the metrical freedom he allowed his wind players but within a precisely calibrated blend when chording. Harty also offers much more looseness in this respect and many more portamentos in the string section. His Schubert is punchy and invigorating, Beecham’s more emollient and sidling in approach. The music making is forward-moving and exciting, though I sense at one side join (imperceptible in this transfer but if you have the 78 you know where it is) Harty fractionally loses the tempo established toward the end of the previous side – it’s in the opening movement; see if you agree.

Listening to this performance is fascinating on a number of levels, not least the individual timbres of each section. The winds are pretty much vibrato-free, as they illustrate in a strong, commanding slow movement, which Harty swings into with dancing Ländler panache; the cellos too don’t illustrate much vibrato but do slide voraciously. Harty is quite salty in the Scherzo, and big-boned and characterful in the finale.

When a transfer is as disappointing as the Hallé’s own label was in the Cassadó adaptation of the Arpeggione sonata, one worries that other companies will shy off [Hallé Tradition CD HLT8003]. The market is not so wide for such material that it can easily bear competing end-products, and that’s one danger in botched transfers. Fortunately this company hasn’t been put off; on the contrary it’s stepped in with its own fine work, courtesy of Mark Obert-Thorn. The Cassadó 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. It’s an ingenious piece of work and shows the soloist in a fine light; the cellist’s much later version with the Bamberg orchestra under Perlea is on a good Cassadó Vox Box.

It’s always good to welcome Harty material. He has cachet among collectors, so let me ask the question: when are we going to have a good transfer of his collaboration with Sammons in the Bruch concerto, and with Catterall in Mozart?

Jonathan Woolf

Fascinating listening.