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CD Review

Sir John Barbirolli

Live Recordings 1937-1943

Albert Spalding, violin
Gaspar Cassado, cello
New York Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir John Barbirolli
Guild Historical GHCD2330/31 2CD 140m ADD

Guild have now carried the flame to what Dutton Laboratories have been doing over the past decade in the keeping of Sir John Barbirolli's memory well and truly alive. This latest issue is already the third from the Barbirolli Society and features several works recorded during live concerts from Tita's tenure with the New York Philharmonic.

The sound is quite atrocious at times with the Franck symphony suffering from occasional dropouts but otherwise one can only admire the intensity and maturity of Barbirolli's music making. Berlioz's "Benvenuto Cellini" fairly leaps out of the speakers (as long as the limited sonics let it) whilst Debussy's 'Ibéria' is rather magical especially in the concluding 'Le matin d'un jour de fete'.

There are also some interesting rarities in the shape of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco's overture 'King John' as well as another overture by Benjamin and Charles Griffes' 'The White Peacock', all splendidly done although again, the sound is rather fitful and crackly. Brahms' Double Concerto is undoubtedly the star turn of the set with Spalding and Cassado playing their hearts out for Tita. Finally there is some Corelli arranged by the conductor himself and also a bonus in the form of Mahler's famous Adagietto from the Fifth Symphony which rounds off the set very nicely indeed.

My only gripes are with the sound which is rather sub standard in places but I guess there wasn't much that could be done. Otherwise this is another thrilling memorial to one of the great conductors of the past.

Copyright © 2007, Gerald Fenech