First the bad news. The fluctuating prospects of my EMI pension have been the subject of two previous posts. Now comes the news that Guy Hands, the new owner of ailing EMI, has removed the chairman of the company's pension fund and appointed his own nominee to the post. This is Money comments:
The move was unusual since chairmen of pension fund trustees must be seen to be able to represent the interests of pensioners without fear of censure from the company financing the fund.Fortunately we still have many principled small businesses in the UK. But then there is the BBC and EMI; not to mention HBOS, the bank that cost us, and many others, a serious amount of money.
But now for the good news. The fine drawing above depicts that great conductor Sir John Barbirolli, who made many fine recordings for EMI. His masterly accounts of Elgar's First and Second Symphonies, recorded for HMV with the Philharmonia and Hallé Orchestras respectively, have been absent from their catalogue for too long. On August 31st they are being released in a 2CD set coupled with In the South and the Serenade for Strings. This important re-issue can be pre-ordered for just £6.98 UK postage paid from Amazon.co.uk. It is a pity though that EMI's lavish website does not explain who conducts what; Barbirolli conducts the symphonies and Norman del Mar takes over the baton for the Serenade for Strings. But neither of the two conductors listed on EMI's website conduct In the South.
If you look very carefully at the image of the CD box you will see that the conductor of In The South (which, erroneously is given a lower case 'i' on the website) is the Romanian Constantin Silvestri (1913-1969) This is the scintillating and unmissable recording of the Elgar work made with him directing the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Silvestri's uncle was the Austro/Czech composer Emil von Reznicek of Donna Diana fame, and the sparkling style of that piece seems to infect Silvestri's conducting. Constantin Silvestri also composed, and there is a rare video of the third movement of his Rhapsody for Piano here.
Just to complete the catalogue of EMI website howlers, the Philharmonia Orchestra, who play one of the Elgar Symphonies on the new release, is also overlooked. But under £7 for these truly great recordings (and compositions) is very good news for CD collectors. Even if you need to do some research to find out who is actually conducting what on the discs. But, is this really the best way for EMI's new owners to exploit their massive intellectual property assets?
'Glorious John' is in New York here. Mahler with such human warmth and soul is below, read about that great recording here.
* There is another later, and arguably better, recording of Sir John Barbirolli conducting the Hallé Orchestra in Elgar's First Symphony. This is a live concert recording made by the BBC at the King's Lynn Festival here in Norfolk shortly before Barbirolli died in 1970. It was available on BBC legends, now deleted.
* Constantin Silvestri was a very fine Elgar conductor. EMI planned to record both of the Elgar symphonies and Gerontius with him, but his premature death in 1969 prevented this. There is a BBC Legends mono release of Silvestri conducting Elgar's First. Still available and worth buying as these historic BBC CD transfers, which were marketed by IMG artists, are being culled at a frightening rate.
* There are used copies of the essential BBC CD of Barbirolli conducting Elgar's First Symphony at the King's Lynn Festival available from American resellers via Amazon.com. But English customers are blocked by Amazon from buying this English recording of an Englishman conducting English music in England. So much for the frontierless internet.
I am afraid I cannot answer the question everyone will ask. The print seen in my header image hangs on my study wall, which is where I photographed it. But, to my chagrin, I do not know who the artist is. It was bought from a shop in King's Parade, Cambridge some years ago, that is all I can tell you. If anyone knows who the artist is or where copies can be bought I will happily publish the information - update 27/08, see comments below. Meanwhile, apologies for this unattributed image. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk