I was a bit complacent about the Brahms concerto for years. I knew it, of course, but I listened to it respectfully rather with great affection. Then this CD came along. I was ill and I bought a copy of BBC music magazine to cheer myself up a bit. This disc was on the cover. The Brahms concerto has never been the same again.
You will probably adjust to the 1943 sound within 30 seconds of the start. We may have a stereotypical idea of Adrian Boult as a stiff and formal character. Well, he gets the BBC Orchestra breathing fire in the initial section, even before the soloist even enters. The atmosphere is exultant; clearly everyone involved knows this is a special event. Boult was well-known as a great accompanist. Interestingly, he sometimes rehearsed the orchestral introduction to a concerto last, after working on the rest of the piece with the soloist. Even in these first two or three minutes he captures something special here.
Mehuhin's playing just SINGS. In this so-called 'concerto against the violin', where so much of the solo part is played obbligato to a large orchestra, his matchlessly flexible phrasing is always in evidence and projected naturally without apparent effort. And he plays the Enescu cadenza in the first movement - a beautiful surprise. The accompaniment by Boult and the BBC Orchestra is well captured, even in the elderly recording. It is especially interesting to hear the fine woodwind playing and the timbre of the narrow-bore horns - a vivid reminder of how many orchestras sounded seventy years ago before greater homogeneity set in.
Forgive me getting slightly emotional but I would never live without this recording. It cries out for reissue. I will even forgive the buffoon who shouts 'bravo' in a cut-glass BBC accent as the final chord dies away. By the way, the unaccompanied Bach too is breathtaking.