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Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
From Bach to Wagner
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on 9 August 2012
In his day Sir Adrian Boult tended to be somewhat overshadowed by Beecham, Barbirolli and even Sargent. This was probably due to the fact that he was not in any way a flamboyant or charismatic conductor as these others were. He also tended to be regarded as a conductor who concentrated on the music of English composers, particularly Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Holst, all of whom he knew well and, in the case of Vaughan Williams and Holst, were friends. His repertoire, however, was immense and extremely varied and was built up, particularly during his years as conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra from 1931 until 1950, when he was expected to do anything.

After recording much music by English composers for EMI he turned to Austro-Germanic repertoire almost by accident. In August 1970 there was time to spare at the end of six days of sessions recording Elgar and Vaughan Williams, and this was used to record Brahms's Third Symphony and Tragic Overture. This was so successful that he went on to record, not only the other three symphonies and other works by Brahms, but most of the other works included in this superb new set from EMI: music by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert and Wagner. All of these met with considerable acclaim when they were issued, especially the four LPs of music by Wagner. In his review of the first of these the renowned critic and musicologist Deryck Cooke wrote, "I have never heard Sir Adrian Boult conduct Wagner before, and I suppose that most people, like myself, never thought of him as a Wagner conductor at all; but on this record he reveals himself as a 'perfect Wagnerite'".

When these recordings were made Sir Adrian was in his eighties, but you would never think so; everything is so fresh and alive. The recordings also have the advantage of a conductor who had spent more than half a century thinking about and performing this music which he loved.

Many will be familiar with the Brahms, Wagner and the Schubert Great C Major, a work in which Sir Adrian was unsurpassed. They may not have heard, however, his accounts of the Brandenburgs. I am glad that these have been included in this box, and not only because they are a curiosity, performed as they are in the style that the young Boult heard at the beginning of the twentieth century from conductors such as Nikisch and Steinbach. Sir Adrian was not interested in the so called authenic approach to baroque music and may actually have made these recordings almost as a protest, although he was far too much of a gentleman to say this. He did say to the producer Christopher Bishop that he was "tired of chopped-up Bach"! He uses what sounds like all the strings of the LPO in these performances, but the result is never heavy sounding nor congested; quite the reverse.
Here is a list of the works in this superb anthology of Sir Adrian's art:
Bach: Brandenburg Concerti 1- 6
Mozart: Symphonies 35 & 41; Overture, The Magic Flute
Beethoven: Symphony No.6; Coriolan Overture; Ruins of Athens Overture and Turkish March
Schubert: Symphony No.9
Johann StraussI: Radetzky March
Suppe: Poet and Peasant Overture
Wagner: Overtures, Preludes and Orchestral Excerpts from Rienzi, Der Fliegende Hollander, Tannhauser, Lohengrin,
Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg and The Ring, Siegfried Idyll
Wolf: Italian Serenade
Brahms: Symphonies 1-4, Serenades 1 & 2, Overtures, Haydn Variations, Alto Rhapsody (with Dame Janet Baker)
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on 30 October 2014
I well remember the struggle to appreciate Brahms symphonies when I was sixteen. Beethoven was so easy! I listened to the records Boult made and went to Halle concerts conducted by James Loughran and gradually began to understand a little. This was much more elusive than Mozart but once Brahms music becomes familiar, it is unforgettable and with Boult it is grounded in humanity.
I have had this set a few months and have only recently finished playing all the CD's. I think that anyone with an open mind would enjoy all this set. This is perhaps not how we hear the Brandenburg's today but I am sure most people would enjoy Boult's version. I hope so anyway because it would be perverse to denigrate such honest and vital musicianship.
The recordings could be described as "ripe". Meaning that they display all the warmth and character of EMI 1970's analogue. Wonderful!
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on 24 October 2012
This excellent set contains the Jupiter and Pastoral Symphony performances previously issued on ICA classics.

The remastered sound balance is suprisingly different !

The ICA transfer is very light and airy, whereas the EMI is a little bass rich for my tastes.

The EMI probably has the edge, but benefits from a bass cut which allows some of the detail through.

Would be interested in other peoples views (anyone who is mad enough to buy both issues !).

The Jupiter is a sublime and glorious performance.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 24 August 2012
I entirely agree with Graham - this is an exceptional and very satisfying issue. It includes many well-known recordings which have appeared at various times individually - the Schubert 9 and the Brahms Symphonies and Serenades, for example - but also there are little rarities - Poet and Peasant, the Radetzky March, the Magic Flute Overture (recorded for World Record Club in the 1960s) and the Ruins of Athens from an old Columbia EP, I think, all excellent, and though not very significant, very nice to have nonetheless. It is also nice to see the 'Haffner' reappear. It was originally coupled with the 'Jupiter' (also here) on an EMI LP, a performance quite recently chosen by BBC Radio 3's CD Review as the best 'traditional' performance available on CD. He was such a good conductor, often undervalued by those who like Olympic displays on the podium, but so knowledgeable and so musical, and his repertoire was huge. It was sometimes said that he never gave a bad performance (I don't quite agree with that!!), but the absolute excellence of his work at his best still takes me by surprise sometimes. Anyway, this is a fine set, and it is just that we are reminded that Sir Adrian was first and foremost a conductor in the great European tradition, not a specialist in English music (he never regarded himself as such), which is what these 11 CDS make quite clear.
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on 21 October 2012
This is quite the most significant CD purchase I have made in a very long time. I am old enough to remember being present when Sir Adrian conducted Brahms 1st Symphony in Edinburgh's Usher Hall. At that time I was in the process of developing a deep and lasting love for the Brahms symphonies but struggled, for some reason, with the 1st. That evening Sir Adrian shed light for me on this most magnificent work and I have loved it ever since. His recordings of all four symphonies are to be treasured.

Not for him the acrobatic performances of many conductors (some of them very great conductors it must be said) but Boult, with his long baton, moved nothing beyond the wrist but drew from an orchestra the most glorious sounds. He was never among the ranks of those who could conduct Swan Lake and dance it at the same time!

Purists may baulk at the Bach, despite the venerable presence of David Munrow. Boult himself clearly suffered from no such misgivings and, personally, I love these Brandenburgs.

The Wagner is a revelation, as is the Mozart and everything else on these 11 discs. At a much higher price this set would be worth the money: at the price set by Amazon it is a veritable bargain!
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on 16 November 2015
Everything is on the good side , especially the Wagner items . The vibrant "Brandenburg Concertos" were a pleasant surprise .
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on 29 August 2012
I agree wholeheartedly with both of the previous reviewers . This is a wonderful compilation , long awaited of Boult's Indian Summer recordings of the Austro-German repertoire .

The Bach is buoyant and very enjoyable and David Munrow no less can be heard playing his recorder in a couple of the Brandenburgs. The Haffner and Jupiter are a delight and it is marvellous to see Boult's Wagner recordings back in the catalogue nearly complete.What a shame that EMI didn't give him the chance to record a few vocal excerpts too .

The Schubert 9 deserves all the plaudits it gets . The Brahms cycle is one of the very greatest .It is perhaps invidious to pick out one performance but that of No 2 is right at the top of my list of favourite performances of this symphony.

May I put in a word too for the recording of the Pastoral that I praised when it first reappeared on ICA Classics after 20 plus years missing from the catalogue . It is a complete delight from first bar to the last with a thrilling storm and a rather brisk scene by the brook which , however,seems utterly in context .

This is a treasure trove of wonderful performances and those of Beethoven 6 , Brahms 2, Schubert 9 and the Jupiter in particular deserve to be considered as amongst the very best in recorded history.
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on 7 November 2012
This 11CD compilation is a valuable addition to the Boult discography and is one of several superb box sets released by EMI this year which brings together an artist's recorded legacy in themed collections (witness the recent Jochum 'Icon' set and the new and ongoing Klemperer Legacy).

The theme of this collection covers Boult's EMI recordings of Austro-German repertoire and makes a welcome appearance especially as many of these performances were deleted on LP for years and were only sporadically distributed on CD. Of course the Brahms recordings are essentials for any collection but how many people have heard Sir Adrian's surprisingly lively Bach Brandenburgs or powerful Wagner overtures and preludes? It's good also to see Boult's wonderful late recording of Beethoven's 'Pastoral' back on EMI along with the Schubert 'Great C Major' which again has been in and out of the catalogue in various transfers.

The biggest surprise though is Boult's masterful interpretations of the Mozart 'Haffner' and 'Jupiter' Symphonies. I'm sure so many people who associate Boult with Elgar, Holst, Vaughan Williams etc.will be amazed not only that he conducted Mozart so well, but that he actually conducted it at all! As with the other works in this set, Boult presents these classical symphonies quite simply and with great authority, without ever getting in the way of the music itself.

As with Klemperer recordings, Boult's performances benefit from outstanding sound quality, not least because of the antiphonal balance he achieved on the orchestra (first and second violins either side of the stereo spectrum, double woodwind and carefully deployed brass)combined with a wide but natural dynamic range.

I grew up with these recordings on fondly remembered LPs but, like other listeners on Amazon, the seductive sounds of Karajan led to me to unjustly put these Boult discs aside when Deutsche Grammophon ones became more affordable. Now, it's like being reunited with long-lost friends again and this time this Boult collection will hold a permanent and much-loved place in my collection.
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on 15 November 2012
boult is good with all of composers on these discs. the bach areclear and rythmically precise,the mozart could be out of sync today but i loved it. the brahms is as good as the best and the schubert much better than most as for the wagner well
what a shame there are no complete wagner operas.these dispel a feeling that big adrian was an english conductor who spent his time with vaughan williams and elgar only.these discs will be played often when i want to hear the music and not a personality..go for them you will not regret it.

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on 28 October 2012
I'm aware that it's heresy to admit any dissatifaction concerning these recordings; for that reason I've tried to listen objectively, in particular to the Brahms symphonies, to compare them with Boult's near contemporary Eugen Jochum's performances. The fact is that the later seems in every way preferable! I fail to see where Boult is superior in any respect; as fine as his readings are. Jochum's have a vigour, energy and involvement that is wholly convincing and deeply satisfying, to a degree that Boult's recordings simply cannot equal.

I fully respect the reputation of this truly great musician; however I find it hard to go along with the almost euphoric praise given to these recordings - though EMI is congratulated for making them available in this attractive set.

The Mozart symphonies are lovely, especially number 41 - a superb performance! The recordings of the Bandenbergs are an enjoyable and welcome alternative to 'authentic' versions.

There is much to appreciate in the Wagner pieces, although the items from Parsifal are cut crudely from the score, and the Siegfried Idyll lacks charm on account of the large forces Sir Adrian seemed wedded to (it's the same big sound whether the score is from Bach, Mozart, Wagner, Schubert!). Klemperer's smaller scale recording of the Idyll is infinitely more tender and affecting.

The most highly regarded recordings here have been the Brahms symphonies and the Schubert Great C major. And it is here that I have the biggest reservations. The Brahms symphonies are grand and imposing but possess little of the charisma, charm, and vitality Jochum finds in them - not to mention the fantasy and exuberance of Furtwangler's (VPO) response! The First Symphony is a case in point - Boult here seems stolid compared with Jochum's explosive energy or Furtwangler's infinitely responsive conducting: and we know, from Brahms' comments to his friend Joachim, that Brahms himself was all for 'slowings and accelerations'!

The Schubert 9th is unappealing and begs the question: is this really a Schubertian style? Sir Adrian conducts this miracle of a symphony with charateritic (for Sir Adrian, but not for Schubert!) pomp and swagger - though the first movement coda comes close to pomposity. But there is a deficit of Schubertian charm and grace. The huge sonority he draws from the players makes a wonderful sound, but a sound better suited to Vaughan Williams or Elgar than Schubert. To compare this celebrated recording with that of Krips (LSO) or (dare I say it?) Norrington is to pass from the world of heavy anachronistic romanticism into the bright fresh air of a Schubertian landscape.

It seems that the 'Pastoral' was not a favourite with Boult, and it shows. This recording was made in 1977, the same year that Jochum recorded his version for EMI, with the LSO - also with the same producer and team. The timings too are similar for the last movement, but the impression each makes is quite different. For this 'hymn of praise' Sir Adrian seems to have in mind the local Anglican parish church for Evensong, with a congregation of four soporific old ladies and the church mouse (I exaggerate!). While Jochum is out of doors, in the sweet-smelling meadow, with bouyant white clouds floating overhead, trees swaying in the breeze, and the Creator's smile over all!
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