Boult's EMI recording of Brahms marks the beginning of his Indian summer in the studio. Magnificent as it is, that recording must give way to this Proms performance. For a start, the new version is slightly faster and shows a firmer grip. Only the finale is slower, but is seems faster and Boult has eliminated the unwarranted accelarando which has always puzzled me. Above all it is a reading of temperament- just listen to the brass playing in the finale!
Boult is one of the few to have the measure of this elusive symphony (even Toscanini and Furtwangler made a mess of it). He found a consistent pulse which united the whole work. The middle movements are flowing but mellow- so different from the dirge that Reiner and many others made of it. The quiet ending is an organic part of the work and not an unnecessary adjunct. Has anyone noticed the similarity here with Elgar's 2nd Symphony, in which Sir Adrian was incomparable? No accident, I am sure- Elgar was fascinated by Brahms 3rd.
Kempe,Wand and Toscanini (Philharmonia)are all marvellous but if there is a better performance of this work I have yet to hear it.
The Elgar was recorded during the long, hot, summer of 1976. Boult was 87 at the time and the fire in the performance is little of extraordinary. Try the horns in the second movement! The return of the motto theme is electrifying. Boult used to say that it brought shivers down his spine and now we can hear what he means! I have passing doubts about the adagio, which is a trifle brisk, but agree that this is his best rendition of the score.
Michael Kennedy ended his biography on Boult with the touching words, "he had the overwhelming satisfaction of opening the doors of music to tens of thousands of individuals ,who blessed and will bless his name to the end of their lives." To those who revere him these recordings are treasure indeed. Is it too much to hope for more?