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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars vigorous, lyrical, beautifully structured Brahms, 16 April 2007
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hillbank68 "almac1975" (Fife, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Brahms - Overture, Alto Rhapsody, Serenades and Haydn Variations (Audio CD)
I've known these performances since they came out on LP in the 1970s. Boult was well known for his Brahms and these are very gutsy, very well paced and structured accounts of marvellous, contrasting pieces, from the wonderful spirituality of the Alto Rhapsody (with Janet Baker, no less - a performance that really flows) through the lovely Serenades, very vigorous and in places beautifully lyrically phrased, to the two sonata-form Overtures and the Variations, where the return of the theme double forte is as joyous as I have ever heard it (it's a feature of these interpretations that the climaxes really are just that, not merely loud but very well prepared for and genuinely powerful). There are two slight quirks - the slow movements of both Serenades are very flowing, a good deal faster than in some performances, and there are very occasional minor lapses of ensemble. Neither bothers me. But really, this is echt Brahms, sounding at his very best, and the performances continue to give very great pleasure indeed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Boult at his best, 5 May 2012
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Simon Trezise (Dublin, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Brahms - Overture, Alto Rhapsody, Serenades and Haydn Variations (Audio CD)
Why has Boult's reputation suffered so much in recent years? Listening to these wonderful recordings again after many years without them, I am constantly energised by his fine musicianship, the gutsy, detailed recordings, and his refined sense of structure. There are many highlights here. The climax of the Haydn Variations when the theme comes back at the end is overwhelming; I love the bassoons in the Academic Festival Overture, which also comes to a magnificent climax; his Serenades are perfectly paced and I'm sure I haven't heard a better performance of the first movement of No. 1. Janet Baker's Alto Rhapsody is a classic, and the sound is very satisfying. Few companies made a better job of the strings than EMI at this vintage period.

So why is Boult neglected? Why isn't there a set of his Brahms symphonies on CD? There really should be. Few recent sets compare with his latish EMI recordings. I know there are moments when he can be more workmanlike than inspired, but there are so many insights to be gleaned. We can get his Elgar and Vaughan Williams complete, I think, but there was so much more. Boult would surely merit an Icon box, wouldn't he?
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