Not that Sir John (1899-1970) knew he was recording for Warner – HMV and Pye, yes, all here in this 109-CD set covering JB’s glorious art between 1928 and the year of his death. An ideal gift for Christmas.
He is most associated with the Manchester-based Hallé Orchestra, and he also recorded (as far as this set is concerned) with the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics, the LSO, and the Philharmonia Orchestra. Many stellar soloists of the day – whether instrumentalists (in Concerto collaborations) or singers – are represented, and the performances are deeply considered, characterful, lived-in, glowing, and generous/big-hearted.
Expansive symphonic works vie for our attention alongside enjoyable examples of the lighter side of musical life (such as Sousa, Johann Strauss II and Suppé) and embracing popular operatic arias.
Composers include Beethoven (a large-scale ‘Eroica’ with the BBC Symphony Orchestra), Brahms’s Four Symphonies in Vienna, Debussy, Dvořák 7, 8 & ‘New World’, Haydn, Mahler 1, 5, 6 & 9 (the latter from Berlin), Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’, Mozart, Nielsen 4, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly (Rome), Ravel, Schoenberg’s Pelleas und Melisande, Schubert 9 (twice), Sibelius’s Seven Symphonies (Hallé), Richard Strauss’s Metamorphosen and Heldenleben, Tchaikovsky 4, 5 & ‘Pathétique’, Verdi’s Messa da Requiem and Otello, and Wagner selections.
Plenty of British music – Bax (Tintagel), Delius, Elgar (Gerontius, both Symphonies, Falstaff, two versions of Enigma Variations and several of the Introduction and Allegro), Purcell, Rubbra’s Fifth Symphony, Vaughan Williams.
There are many celebrated recordings here that have gone hand-in-hand with longevity – and they will continue to thrive in this handsome (including original LP-cover artwork) and convenient Warner presentation. The new transfers are superb, bringing sound that is fresh, vivid and tangible: the years simply fall away.