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5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb Anthology of Sir Adrian's Art, 9 Aug. 2012
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This review is from: From Bach to Wagner (Audio CD)
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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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 9 Aug 2012, 16:31:15 BST
Thank you for the excellent review, Graham. I am pleased to see that Boult's Brahms recordings are included in the set. My old EMI Studio CDs are showing signs of age! I'll be ordering immediately!

Posted on 14 Aug 2012, 11:08:27 BST
Last edited by the author on 14 Aug 2012, 11:14:32 BST
P. D. Ball says:
Hi Graham,
Thanks for your review of these Boult recordings. I have always been a great fan of Sir Adrian Boult and have many of his recordings, mainly on vinyl, of English music for which he was greatly admired,although I did once attend a Proms concert when he conducted Brahms Syphony No 2 shortley before he died.
So I am very interested and looking forward to hearing these recordings of music that I never really associated with this great British conducter. Thanks, Peter Ball

Posted on 25 Aug 2012, 11:18:09 BST
I'd like to add my thanks for this excellent and perceptive review - and it's especially welcome for the list of works which Amazon have failed to provide.

Posted on 11 Sep 2012, 17:16:01 BST
lensmaker says:
Back in the 50'5 Sir Adrian was thought of as No1 for Brahms, a knock out Wagner very much so with the Idyll [fantastic in concert]and there were recordings made of Beethoven symphonies rather overshadowed by the Germans and that Italian. English critical taste could not accept home-grown for Beethoven. But then Schubert Great C major was awarded one of the top two recordings of all-commers.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Jan 2013, 17:27:01 GMT
D. S. CROWE says:
Boult gave the first UK performance of Mahler's 3rd symphony in 1948. What a pity that we never got any recordings of him in this repertoire, and possibly even more temptingly, Bruckner at which he must surely have excelled!

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Jan 2013, 01:38:27 GMT
lensmaker says:
re. BOULT MAHLER 3 But there is a live BBC concert transcription 1947 to be found as one of the discs in a boxed set from Membran Music Ltd. Box set [Gustav Mahler the symphonies-das leid von erde]. The sound is not bad as it may come from a BBC 16 inch microgroove transcription disc master. This set is a real collector set with lots of other conductors of note. Mike

Posted on 23 Feb 2013, 13:49:52 GMT
Bedinog says:
There are some rather special reviews and comments on this collection and it is gratifying that Sir Adrian has not slipped off the radar. My first listening experience of him was the 1954(ish) Planets (LPO) on PYE/Marble Arch, and to this day it's still my favourite version-available again on Heritage, remastered, too. The original Decca Vaughan Williams Symphony cycle alsoremains my preferred version. The penny dropped as to why- it's a case of the music 'sitting right' as a whole- he lets it speak for itself;no jerking things around-just lets it flow.
I confess there's quite o bit of music on these 11 CDs that are not part of my normal listening repertoire (philistine!), but I might just go for it.

Thanks everyone.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 May 2013, 20:20:35 BST
D. M. Ohara says:
The contralto soloist is Kathleen Ferrier!
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