J. Barbirolli (cond)

Born: 1899

Died: 1970

John Barbirolli


Born in London to Italian and French parents, John Barbirolli was closely associated with English music, particularly as a wonderful interpreter of Elgar and Vaughan Williams, but he was also a great Mahler interpreter and also superb in Puccini (his set of Madama Butterfly is one of the great recordings). After an unhappy period at the helm of the New York PO where he succeeded Arturo Toscanini, he returned to the UK and headed the Hallé Orchestra for the rest of life, creating a world-class ensemble. He conducted the best-selling EMI disc of Elgar's Sea Pictures and Cello Concerto putting both Jacqueline du Pré and Dame Janet Baker on the musical map.

Barbirolli: a tribute by John Wilson

'I was 11 years old when I first heard a Barbirolli recording – Elgar’s Serenade for Strings – and I’ve idolised this great musician ever since. He remains the conductor I revere above all others. As well as being an interpretative artist of the first rank across an enormously wide repertoire, he had an unequalled ability to make any orchestra give of their absolute best for him. Thorough in rehearsal and attentive to the smallest details of a score whilst always maintaining the grand sweep of a piece, he loved to make records; how lucky we are to have such a comprehensive record of his music-making. Barbirolli was a very great conductor and a very great man.'

Interviews & Articles

Sir John Barbirolli speaks to Alan Blyth (September 1969)

John Barbirolli: A life in recordings

My early career, by John Barbirolli (Gramophone, October 1936)

Recommended Recording

Elgar Cello Concerto. Sea Pictures

Jacqueline de Pre; Janet Baker, London Symphony Orchestra / Sir John Barbirolli

'Though both Jacqueline du Pré and Janet Baker were already well established and widely appreciated in 1965, this disc marked a turning point for both of them in their recording careers. With John Barbirolli so warm-hearted and understanding an accompanist to each, these are both in every sense classic performances that can never be replaced.' Read the review

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