SATIE: Gymnopédie No. 3. Gymnopédie No. 1. BRITTEN: Sinfonia
Op. 20. DVORÁK: Symphony No. 7 in D minor, Op. 70.
Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam/Sir John Barbirolli, cond.
TESTAMENT SBT 1252 (F) (ADD) TT: 67:29
The first time John Barirolli appeared in the Concertgebouw
was in 1921 when, as a member of a string quartet, he "lugged his
up and down those long stairs of the Grote Zaal..." He had conducted
the Hague Residency Orchestra several times during the '50s, but
didn't conduct the Concertgebouw until January 1969 when he gave
five performances of the same program: Verdi's La forza del destino overture,
two Gymnopoédie of Satie, Britten's Sinfonia
da Requiem and Dvorak's Symphony No. 7. Bernard Haitink had been conductor of
the orchestra for four years; Barbirolli's old-fashioned, romantic
conducting style took a while for the orchestra to accommodate. Apparently
after a somewhat rocky start in the first rehearsal
things went very
smoothly; Barbirolli said, "After so many years conducting all the
famous orchestras of the world, I am now concluding with the incredibly
beautiful Concertgebouw Orchestra. We rehearsed for 12 hours; it
was a sensation—as if I was making chamber music with very old friends."
It's a beautiful concert centered on Britten's Sinfonia
da Requiem, a work particularly close to the conductor as he
had given the world
premiere in March 1941 with the New York Philharmonic (this is available
on Nmc). There is another live performance with
the BBC Symphony Orchestra
from a concert in Royal Albert Hall in 1967, issued on BBC
The 1969 Amsterdam performance was the first in that country and
finds Barbirolli in a more expansive mood than two years earlier.
The two short Satie pieces are langorous to the extreme, the Dvorak
symphony surely among the finest recordings of the work. Unfortunatelyt,
the Verdi overture (which would have fit onto the CD) was not available.
A plus is the sound quality, a Dutch radio recording that has vividly
the warmth and resonance of the famed Dutch hall. Hats off to Testament
for making this available! I shall return to this recording often.
R.E.B. (July 2003)