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John Barbirolli


Both John Barbirolli’s father and his grandfather were Italian violinists of note. As members of the orchestra of La Scala, Milan, they had both played in the first performance of Verdi’s Otello (1887), as had Toscanini. Barbirolli’s mother was a native of the southwest region of France. He was born in London and not surprisingly was taught to play music as a very young child. Initially he learnt the violin but at the age of seven he switched to the cello. Three years later he entered Trinity College of Music, transferring after two years to the Royal Academy of Music. His first recordings were made for the Edison Bell Company in 1911, with his sister accompanying him on the piano. He started to play in Sir Henry Wood’s Queen’s Hall Orchestra during 1916, and made his recital debut at the Aeolian Hall the following year. Between 1917 and 1919 he served in the British army, where he had the opportunity to conduct a voluntary orchestra.

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