An Italian father (Lorenzo), a French mother (Louise Marie) and all the marks of an Englishman. Sir John Barbirolli, born in London in 1899, is a pure British product trained at Trinity College in London and the Royal Academy of Music. He is also a pure musical product: his father and his grandfather were violinists in the Orchestra del teatro alla Scala in Milan and they were at their music stands the night of the premiere of Verdi's Othello.
At a very young age, Barbirolli learnt the violin, which he soon exchanged for the cello of which he later became a renowned soloist. After having given recitals and played in several orchestras, he created his own chamber orchestra to fulfil his dream: of being a conductor. He soon became a conductor in different Opera pits, where he proved to be outstanding in the lyrical repertoire. He then learnt how to conduct symphonic orchestras such as the Scottish Orchestra or the London Symphony Orchestra, before the consecration: In 1936 , he was chosen to succeed Arturo Toscanini at the head of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 1942, back in England in perilous conditions, he is appointed director of the Hallé Orchestra, in Manchester, where he remains until the end of his life in 1970. He transforms this formation, which was in a poor state when he arrived, into one of the best in the United Kingdom.
It is the Hallé that he conducts in 1962 during a concert at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. After The Corsair Overture by Berlioz, French cellist André Navarra comes onstage: an immense musician with a brilliant international career. Barbirolli and he have a date with Schumann's Cello Concerto in A Minor, which they perform as two accomplices since they share the same attraction for the instrument. Barbirolli, used to the lyrical art, lets Navarra's luminous cello sing and draws from his orchestra a rich tapestry of sounds. Then comes the lively quick tempo of the Scherzo Capriccioso by Dvoràk.
Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Riccardo Chailly