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The Barbirolli Viennese Album

The Barbirolli Viennese Album

J Strauss II
The Blue Danube
Thunder and Lightning Polka
The Gypsy Baron: Overture
Perpetuum mobile
Champagne Polka

J Strauss I Radetzky March

Lehr Gold and Silver
R Strauss Der Rosenkavalier Suite

All recorded in 1967

The Beautiful Galatea
Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna
Pique Dame
Poet and Peasant
Light Cavalry
All recorded in 1957

Schubert Symphony No.9 The Great'
Recorded in 1964

Hallé Orchestra
Sir John Barbirolli (conductor)

Members of the Barbirolli Society will not want me to repeat here what I wrote in 1997 about Hallé Viennese Nights for the Society's CDSJB 1010. Suffice it to say that in the Free Trade Hall, at Belle Vue and in the Royal Albert Hall these were occasions which gave intense musical pleasure and also had a remarkable atmosphere of bonhomie. Sir John could relax, but he never relaxed his artistic standards and he treated the waltzes and polkas as masterpieces of their kind which demanded and deserved top-rank treatment. All but one or two of the recordings on that earlier disc were made for Pye in 1956 and 1957. Several of those in this album date from recording sessions for Columbia (part of EMI) on 30 and 31 December 1966. They again include Johann Strauss II's Blue Danube waltz (1867), Perpetuum mobile (1862) and Gypsy Baron overture (1885) and Johann Strauss I's Radetzky March in Gordon Jacob's orchestration. To these are added Strauss II's cork-popping Champagne Polka (1858) and the Thunder and Lightning Polka (1868). No Barbirolli Viennese evening would be complete, of course, without Leh�r's Gold and Silver waltz (1902), performed with especial sumptuousness.

From the 1957 Pye sessions come six items by Franz von Suppé (1819-95), the Austrian composer and conductor of Belgian descent who settled in Vienna in 1835 where five years later he became third conductor at the Theater in der Josefstadt. In 10 years there, he wrote over twenty scores, including Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna (1844), in which he proved himself in the line of Johann Strauss I. He moved to the Theater an der Wien in 1845 as one of its chief conductors for the next I 7 years, after which he went to Kaitheater in 1862 and the Caritheater in 1865 where he remained until his retirement in 1882. His Queen of Spades overture was for a one-act comic operetta, first staged in Berlin, and The Jolly Robbers (Banditenstreiche) for yet another in 1867. Perhaps his best-known and most popular pieces are the Light Cavalry overture (two-act comic operetta, 1866) and the Poet and Peasant overture (three-act Lustspiel, 1846]. Of all his stage works, only Boccaccio (1879) is seen with any regularity today, although he was regarded in his lifetime as Vienna's answer to Offenbach. But the overtures survive and are ideal Barbirolli Viennese material.

The other Strauss in this album is the German, Richard. He is represented by Barbirolli's suite of waltzes from his most popular opera Der Rosenkavalier (1911) which Barbirolli often conducted with the Covent Garden touring company in the l930s. So as far as I can discover, Sir John never conducted this compilation in the concert-hall although he often conducted a suite, probably arranged by Artur Rodzinski, which includes the Presentation of the Rose and the trio in orchestral disguise and can be heard on Barbirolli at the Opera', CDSJB 1004. It is interesting to note that Strauss himself made only arrangements of the waltzes for concert performance. Barbirolli recorded this rarity of his own in the December 1966 sessions for Columbia.

Sir John made two recordings of Schubert's Great C major Symphony, the first in December 1953 (issued on CDSJB 1020) and the second (issued here) in June 1964, also for HMV. He adored the work and it was in his repertory onwards from his years with the Scottish Orchestra from 1933 to 1936. Today it is one of the most popular of all symphonies and it is almost incomprehensible to us that it was at first greeted with incomprehension and derision. It was written in the late summer of 1825 when Schubert was on holiday at Gmunden-Gastein in Upper Austria. He presented the completed score to the Vienna Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in October 1826. A performance was planned and parts were copied in 1827. The date March 1828' on the autograph score, which was once mistakenly taken to be the date of composition, almost certainly is the date of an extensive revision by Schubert after the symphony had been declared too long and difficult for performance.

The symphony was not performed until 21 March 1839, eleven years after Schubert's death. The manuscript was in the possession of Schubert's brother

Ferdinand who showed it to Schumann while the latter was staying in Vienna. Realising its importance, Schumann sent it to Mendelssohn in Leipzig, who conducted the successful premiere. Vienna then decided to perform it later the same year, but the orchestra could only cope with the first two movements. Mendelssohn put it in a London Philharmonic Society concert in 1844, but the orchestra disrupted the rehearsal with derisory remarks and laughed so much at the horn passages in the finale that the performance was abandoned. The first complete Manchester performance was conducted by Hallé in January 1864 and met with a cool critical response. It seems that no one could fathom its complexity' and expansiveness.

The complexity' lies in the miraculous way Schubert builds each movement from simple rhythmic figures which are transformed and integrated into his grand design. The opening theme for unison horns launches the andante introduction to the first movement's driving energy, which slackens only for the plangent second subject (or second-subject group, to be precise). Surely this movement, with its alternations of loud and soft music and its elaborate coda, was the model for Bruckner's symphonies. In the slow movement, dominated by an oboe solo and violent outbursts to disrupt the lyricism, Schubert's sense of the dramatic is to the fore. The scherzo is on a large scale, rhythmically exciting, and with a dance-like trio to which Barbirolli brings enormous élan. One can perhaps feel some sympathy for those 19th century orchestral players when faced with the demands of the colossal finale and its persistent rhythms, sometimes slackening in impetus but always gathering renewed energy as they build towards the final triumphant peroration. It was a revolutionary work in 1826 and even today, when we know it so well, we can still appreciate how advanced it was.

Michael Kennedy, The Barbirolli Society, 2002

2 CD SET - CDSJB 1024

Product ID CDSJB1024
Price: £10.99
USD: $13.67 approx EUR: €12.18
1,475 JPY
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