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CD Review

John Barbirolli

The Columbia Masters, Volume 1

New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra/John Barbirolli
Dutton Laboratories/Barbirolli Society CDSJB1025 66m mono Rec: 1940-42

This disc is labeled as 'The Columbia Masters – Volume 1' so we can look forward to some more excellent recordings from this source. As usual, Michael Dutton has applied his singular talents to creating some splendid remasters of unique Barbirolli material.

Rimsky-Korsakoff's 'Cappriccio Espagnol' is not otherwise available under Barbirolli and this is a viscerally splendid account full of effusive charm and brilliance with the NYPSO responding with almost magisterial efficiency. The work belies its 1940 recording date and is to be welcomed at the top of the Barbirolli canon.

Tchaikovsky's wonderful 'Tema con varizioni' from his Third Suite is a popular piece and under Barbirolli's direction it certainly has a flair of its own. However the main work on disc must be the Sibelius symphony which was always one of Sir John's perennial favourites.

I have recently been listening to the Beecham reissue on Sony's Beecham collection and rate that recording as one of the best in my collection. This one by Barbirolli is similarly taut and restrained yet with just th right applications of tension and emotion throughout, thus creating an excellent memorial to those who wish to continue refuting this period in Sir John's history. The Finale is particularly notable for its magnificent sense of drive and propulsion.

The recordings are astonishing for their age and the notes are also a historical gem with excerpts from the recently published biography by Michael Kennedy. All told, this is another essential reissue for Barbirolli devotees and other collectors who are particularly fond of great interpretations of the classics.

Copyright © 2004, Gerald Fenech