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Boult Conducts

Two English Idylls [4:58 + 4:32]
The Banks of Green Willow [5:33]
A ‘Shropshire Lad’ Rhapsody [8:35]
Peter WARLOCK (1894-1930)

An Old Song for small orchestra [5:56]
Patrick HADLEY (1899-1973)

One Morning in Spring - Rhapsody for small orchestra [3:54]
Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983)

Procession [4:51]
Merry-eye* [8:50]
Elegy for viola, string quartet and string orchestra* [9:05]
Music for a Prince*: Corydon’s Dance [7:11]; Scherzo in Arden [5:17]
*Herbert Downes (viola); Desmond Bradley, Gillian Eastwood (violins); Albert Cayzer (viola); Norman Jones (cello)
London Philharmonic Orchestra, New Philharmonia Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult
rec. 1970, 1979, 1977. ADD
LYRITA SRCD.245 [68.46]

There could have been no finer or more appropriate conductor than Boult to undertake these recordings.  They were made over the years and at different sessions with two different orchestras but they have the Boult stamp of consistency and elevation, one marked by formal logic, architectural surety and a strongly expressive profile which never breaches the bounds of decorum.
Which means that you will possibly have heard a performance of Butterworth’s A ‘Shropshire Lad’ Rhapsody that will have sounded to you more immediately thrilling and suffused in – can one add this? – bathos. But you will not easily have heard a performance more complete in its assurance or surer in its means, I think, than this one. Boult had heard its premiere under Nikisch in Leeds but that is maybe only an incidental question given that Nikisch was supposed to have given a slovenly performance. Boult’s eloquence is radiant, the pacing and unfolding of melodic lines refulgent, the whole bathed in longing and loss. We find the same in the second of the English Idylls, where the cantilena is spun in a loving arc – how that phrase would have distressed Boult – and the winds are at their most communicative, phrasing with undulating warmth; the harp is well balanced and the Rodney Friend-led strings carve their way with avid drive. Boult wasn’t always at his most incisive in the studio from the mid seventies but the First Idyll begs to differ in this performance – a relishable folkloric jostle. 
There is a sequence of music by Howells; near contemporaries he and Boult died within a day of each other in 1983. Procession was originally written for piano and orchestrated for performance in 1922. It has real Russophile colour and drama and is chock full of tension and tensile power. Conversely Merry Eye is a concoction of pastoral and Stravinskian influences – bright, tight rhythms and the piano used as percussive colour. It’s not inappropriate that the tempo slackens for the Elegy which has small hints of the Tallis Fantasia and Vaughan Williams modality generally; it’s played with rich tone and sagacious perception by the august Herbert Downes. Music for a Prince is in two movements. The first Corydon’s Dance is a rehash of music from The Bs suite whilst Scherzo in Arden is a more galvanic piece – pastoral but full of outbursts of verve and confidence. The first was dedicated to Francis “Bunny” Warren, who was killed in the War; the second was written for that Young Man About Town, Arthur Bliss.
There are two more reasons for acquiring this disc. Warlock’s An Old Song is very Delian though the Celtic-Cornish twilights are audible as well and a feel of Brigg Fair in outline. We should remember that the idiom was far from novel to Boult – he’d conducted the world premiere of Delius’s Violin Concerto after all. Then finally there is Patrick Hadley’s One Morning in Spring, written for Vaughan Williams’s seventieth birthday, which feints toward pastoral simplicity but instead admits low brass turmoil to inject a bucolic and dramatic note.
Here’s a compilation of real stature sourced from Lyrita’s vaults and presented in accustomed upland splendour. One not to be missed.
Jonathan Woolf

see also reviews by Rob Barnett and John Quinn

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