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Jonathan Woolf
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Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Chanson de Nuit Op.15 No.1 (1901) [3:43]
Chanson de Matin Op.15 No.2 (1901) [4:47]
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Faust: Ballet Music (1859) [16:29]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Norwegian Dances, Op.35 (1887) [14:53]
Peer Gynt Suite No.2 - incidental music, Op.23 (1874-75) [16:19]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Cantata No.140; Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme arr. Granville Bantock, 1931 [6:34]
City of Birmingham Orchestra/George Weldon
rec. c. 1945-50

George Weldon remains one of the more under-sung of British conductors and his relatively early death - like that of an eminent colleague, Leslie Heward - led to a gradual winding down of interest in his recorded legacy. He did however undertake some major projects. He accompanied Cyril Smith in Rachmaninov in 1946, having earlier done the honours for Moiseiwitsch in Tchaikovsky. On the symphonic front his Dvořák New World, recorded in 1945, was his major contribution but I’m not aware that it has been reissued since. He accompanied Medtner in the composer’s recording of his own First Piano Concerto. He also directed Gladys Ripley in Elgar’s Sea Pictures in 1946, a beautiful performance that has been restored, thankfully. In this Historic Recordings disc, transferred and re-mastered by Alan Bunting, we have the lighter side of Weldon’s repertoire in performances on 78s that may well have slipped through the net.
Weldon was a noted Elgarian and he plays the two Chansons with delicacy and charm with the City of Birmingham Orchestra. I can augment some of the dates - given a generic c.1945-50 in the card inlay. This double-sided 12” was recorded on consecutive days in June 1945; the fourth and fifth to be exact. The producer was Walter Legge who clearly had quite a bit of time for Weldon and gave him a number of sessions. Weldon and the orchestra also recorded Edward German’s Welsh Rhapsody on the latter date but unfortunately you won’t find it on this CD.
There’s minimal surface noise but no obvious loss of higher frequencies in the Gounod Faust ballet music, which was recorded over four sides in March 1946. Deft and dapper he shows his mettle in these characteristic moments. We go back earlier with Grieg’s Norwegian Dances, once again a Legge production, recorded on 26 March 1945 in the Town Hall, Dudley. Weldon finds plenty of bluff and droll incidents in the dances which always respond well to a rhythmically sharp conductor. His Peer Gynt Suite No.2 is similarly sane and clever; the basses are finely defined and the Birmingham flute principal shines through, as does the clarinet. Bantock’s orchestration of Sleeper’s Wake ends the programme with a fine coagulant surfeit.
When it came to prominent accompanist and symphonic recordings Weldon was rather elbowed aside at the War’s end. Legge, as was his wont, went for bigger, more prominently continental names, hoping to boost sales. In, therefore, came such eminent conductors as Susskind, Kletzki, Galliera and others. Out, by and large, went Weldon though he continued to make recordings principally for the domestic market.
I can’t pretend that much of the repertoire in this disc is riveting, but it’s clearly been selected to showcase Weldon’s lighter side. As such it does a competent job.
Jonathan Woolf