Nicolai Malko conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra

Nicolai Malko was born in 1883 in the Ukraine. His musical studies were largely undertaken in St Petersburg. By the mid-1920s he was teaching at both Moscow and Leningrad Conservatories, and conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic where he premiered Shostakovich’s first two symphonies. Subsequently, history, circumstances and inclination led Malko into a peripatetic life. He worked at various times in Vienna, Salzburg, Prague, Copenhagen, New York, London and Sydney, and was an ambassador for Russian music throughout his life. His sporadic relationship with the BBC – he was never a staff conductor - began in 1929 and lasted until his death in 1962.

In 1952 Richard Itter, the founder of Lyrita, began to make domestic recordings of BBC transmissions using state-of-the-art disc and tape recorders. He documented his collection but rarely listened to it, thus preserving a pristine archive. The Lyrita Recorded Edition Trust began a transfer programme in 2014 with the intention to release the best and rarest of these recordings to the public.

The Itter collection is predominantly of British music, but it also contains some unique international repertoire. This release is the first in a planned occasional series in which Lyrita will pay tribute to those musicians who made an important contribution to musical life in the UK.

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"Lyrit's well-transferred collection of BBC broadcasts featuring the Corporation's Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Nikolai Malko, part of the Itter Broadcast Collection, has to be one of the most signigicant 'historical' orchestral releases in recent years...This is a musically enriching set and our experience of Nikolai Malko's art duly extended." Gramophone, Feb 2016

“Considering the age and provenance of these recordings, the audio quality is more than acceptable. The excellent annotations, which provide biography, background and context are supplied by Rob Barnett, and run to thirty-eight pages, including a full English text of Kodály’s ‘The Spinning Room’. If that weren’t enough, the text is sprinkled with beautifully produced black and white photographs… I come away from this 4 CD set in the firm belief that Nikolai Malko is a conductor well worth getting to know.” Stephen Greenbank,

The Lyrita label (1952) as a whole emerged from founder Richard Itter’s penchant for taping BBC transmissions and archiving them. In 2014, the Lyrita Recorded Edition Trust obtained permissions to release selective performances to the public, and this current set devoted to Russian conductor Nicolai Malko (1883-1961) comes as a direct result Itter’s conscientious preservation of these historic performances. Conductor Malko maintained a working relationship with the BBC from 1929 until his passing in 2014.

The 1924 one-act theater-piece The Spinning Room of Zoltan Kodaly would be rare enough, even if performed in Budapest in its native Hungarian. In that country, its major disciple had been Janos Ferencsik. Here (3 February 1960), as produced in English with Malko and singers Elizabeth Simon, soprano; Norma Proctor and Kathleen Joyce, contraltos; Duncan Robertson, tenor; Denis Dowling, baritone; and Owen Brannigan, bass – we have only the second time the BBC had mounted the work since 1932, when Kodaly led the score.  Ostensibly, the work represents a Transylvania folk-ballad in operatic style in seven scenes, some more or less politically allegorical, but in the main devoted to faithful domestic love.  A residue of homely charm pervades the work; and the individual vocal talents, including the BBC Chorus, all performing at the Royal Festival Hall, impress with their sincerity of purpose. Gary Lemco,

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