b. London, December 2, 1899
d. London, July 29, 1970
Sir John Barbirolli's New York Philharmonic debut on November 5, 1936, featured a program of works by Berlioz, Arnold Bax, Mozart, and Brahms. Barbirolli's colorful and poetic interpretations earned the respect of musicians and connoisseurs, but his reserved English demeanor contrasted with Toscanini's flamboyant virtuosity, and the wider New York public was slow to embrace it. Furthermore, the circumstances of his engagement as Music Director — Wilhelm Furtwängler had been offered the post, then withdrew after protests against his associations with the Nazi regime in Germany — caused Barbirolli to begin his tenure under the cloud of being "second choice." Barbirolli introduced Philharmonic audiences to much new music by British and American composers, including the world premieres of Britten's Violin Concerto and Sinfonia da Requiem. His core repertoire, however, was the late-Romantic symphonists of northern Europe, notably Vaughan Williams, Elgar, and Sibelius.
In April 1943, Barbirolli returned to Manchester, England to became permanent conductor of the Hallé Orchestra, a venerable ensemble that had fallen on hard times during World War II. Barbirolli, who remained closely associated with the group for the rest of his life, hired dozens of new players and rebuilt the Hallé into an orchestra of international reputation. From 1960 to 1967, Barbirolli served as Music Director of the Houston Symphony. He was warmly welcomed back to the Philharmonic podium on return engagements in 1959 and 1962. Barbirolli's final performance with the Philharmonic, on April 8, 1968, showcased works by Alan Rawsthorne, Vaughan Williams, and Dvorák.