John Barbirolli - Orchestral and Concertos
Barbirolli Society SJB103031 (CD - 2 discs)
New York Philharmonic Orchestra
John Barbirolli
Mily Balakirev (1837-1910) Symphonic Poem 'Tamara'
recorded 24 October 1937
John Barbirolli (1899-1970) Purcell Suite
recorded 24 October 1937
Anthony Collins (1892-1964) Sir Andrew and Sir Toby - Overture
recorded 22 March 1942
Paul Creston (1906-85) Threnody
recorded c. 1942
Gian Carlo Menotti (1911-2007) The Old Maid and the Thief - Overture
recorded c. 1942
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91) Symphony No. 34 in C major, K338: Finale, Allegro vivace
recorded c. 1938
Mischa Portnoff (1901-79) Piano Concerto
recorded 23 February 1941 – World premiere performance
Nadia Reisenberg (piano)
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-93) Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35
recorded 29 March 1942
Mishel Piastro (violin)
Richard Wagner (1813-83) Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg Overture
recorded 24 October 1937
Die Walküre: Ride of the Valkyries
recorded 20 November 1938
Jaromir Weinberger (1896-1967) Christmas
recorded 24 December 1939
It is the existence of surviving broadcast acetate recordings of many of Barbirolli’s broadcasts with the Philharmonic that have enabled us to form a more complete picture of his work and genius (not too strong a word) as a conductor during this period, recordings which in many instances are being made available for the first time publicly. From a period of almost three-quarters of a century, we are able to study and evaluate Barbirolli’s art in a manner that was unavailable to earlier generations of music-lovers. The evaluation produces extraordinary results.

The first of our two CDs in this set opens with Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, in which the soloist is Mishel Piastro. The performance comes from March, 1942, and will be a revelation for many listeners. Piastro is hardly known at all these days, but he was the leader of the Philharmonic under Toscanini and, of course, under Barbirolli. He was, as we may hear, an absolutely astounding violinist – it is rumoured that someone remarked to Fritz Kreisler that ‘Piastro is so gifted but he’s lazy and doesn’t practise’, to which Kreisler replied, ‘Thank God!’ The second CD in this set of performances opens with the world premiere performance of the Piano Concerto by Mischa Portnoff. This Concerto is, as can readily be heard, a dazzlingly effective work, with extremely virtuosic writing for the soloist, composed in a style perhaps best described as a mixture of the then contemporary music of Prokofiev and Shostakovich rather than, say, that of Stravinsky. The soloist was the Lithuanian-born but American naturalised pianist Nadia Reisenberg (1904-83), whose family settled in New York after the Russian Revolution.

The works in this set receive brilliant – not to say breathtaking – performances from the Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York, the members of which were clearly relishing the opportunity to display their virtuosity under a conductor who by that time had won over the hearts and minds of every musician taking part.