Barbirolli on pre-1914 London

April 5 2012

Only the first one minute, eleven seconds. This is the first of three YouTube clips, together lasting half an hour, in which John Barbirolli talks to CB Rees in 1960. The sequence is a filler on a CD of his recording of Mahler 3 with the Hallé in the BBC Legends series.

Below, rehearsing, obsessively, the scherzo of Bruckner 7 with the Hallé at the beginning (first few minutes of this first clip of seven) of a 1965 television film for the BBC Monitor series, narrated by Huw Wheldon. We have met Wheldon already here narrating a couple of early films by Ken Russell.

Barbirolli’s 1964 EMI Mahler 9 with the Berlin Philharmonic is a marvellous recording. The third appearance of the “weak heart” motif, the first thing you hear in the symphony (it’s followed by a vaguely Chinese row of four notes), in the latter part of the first movement, is the most shattering sound on record.

“There are no bad orchestras, only bad conductors.”

He was a great Haydn conductor. The last few minutes of the third clip of the Rees talk, not shown here, give an impression of his dedication to his craft. (Is the photograph Barbirolli? It looks more like Tippett.) His music sometimes suffered, towards the end, from the same thing that (sometimes) undermined Bernstein’s: excessive love and care.

A life in London

Enchanted London

The last year of the Horse Age

2 Responses to “Barbirolli on pre-1914 London”


  1. […] Barbirolli rehearsing Bruckner. […]


  2. […] Barbirolli rehearsing Bruckner. […]


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