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Sir Adrian Boult: The Complete Conductor - From Tchaikovsky to Gershwin
Full track-listing below
WARNER CLASSICS 0192702 [10 CDs: 11.5 hours]

It’s a bit of a shock for an old-timer like me to see the name Warner Classics emblazoned on a bulky box devoted to the EMI recordings of Adrian Boult. Times, however, move on, and one of the impressive things about this latest release devoted to the legacy of the conductor is quite how many things are new to CD here.
 
I think it’s wisest to note what we have rather than get bogged down in post-facto questions as to superiority of particular versions, whether by Boult or by other conductors. That said, lest you think I’ve skipped through this set fast-forwarding, I haven’t. Such has been the interest that I’ve listened throughout even when the recordings are well known. In the case of The Planets, we need to adjust that to very well-known. Indeed the first three discs contain the three commercial recordings for EMI that he left behind; 1945, 1966 and 1978. Each is very different. He never replicated the wartime recording in terms of rapidity and rhythmic bite, even in late live concert performances when, Toscanini-like, he could be fast indeed. Just a few pointers; the 1966 New Philharmonia is, in some cases, the anomalous recording of the three with some very pointedly slow movements - Venus, Saturn and Neptune especially. That said, by the time of the LPO 1978 readings Mars has slowed considerably, and the other movements have reverted, largely, to a more thrusting tempo. If you really want your Planets fix from Boult you’ll need the Nixa and Westminster recordings too.
 
CD 1 also has a terrific Elgar Introduction and Allegro from 1937 with his BBC Symphony. The quartet is well balanced and full of great names - leader Paul Beard, Barry Squire, principal of the seconds, violist Bernard Shore, and cellist Ambrose Gauntlett. His 1972 EMI recording is better-known, and certainly more circulated than the World Record Club LP of 1961, but this 1937 reading is full of vibrant strength. The second CD, which houses the 1966 Planets, also contains a 2002 transfer of Robert Simpson’s Symphony No.1, recorded in 1956 with the LPO. It’s a good example of Boult’s confident handling of contemporary symphonic repertoire during his tenure as principal conductor of the LPO. The third disc contains Howells’s Concerto for String Orchestra from 1973 in this 1999 transfer. It too sports a quartet of soloists and has an especially lovely slow movement. This was very much Boult’s kind of thing and the folklorically-flecked finale goes with passion.
 
Disc 4 has Holst’s A Choral Symphony. I rather cheated here as I have already reviewed this, in the same 1985 transfer, in a box devoted to Holst [EMI 4 40472 2] so merely note it here as an indispensable stereo performance. Bliss’s Music for Strings is heard in the 1974 LPO performance, not the 1937 78 set. Bliss was present for the 1974 sessions and must have enjoyed the way Boult explored the music’s compelling texture. Disc 5 is all-Parry. The Symphony No.5 was, famously, Boult’s own choice as studio swansong. He’d performed the Symphonic Variations with the LSO in 1918, a concert at which Parry had been present, and Boult retained a high regard for the composer. He plays it again in the same sessions as the Symphony, and it’s a perfect fit for a man whose connection with the work stretched back sixty years. The slow movement of the Symphony is one of the most emotively expressive of all Boult performances. The Elegy for Brahms is also here, and so too is the 1965 Blest Pair of Sirens - but not, note, the 1948 recording of the same work.
 
These Parry performances have all appeared before but when we reach disc six we encounter things that have been languishing. There are two recordings of Walton’s Crown Imperial; one from 1977 and the other from 1937, the year it was composed. The later version is with the LPO, the pre-war with the BBC SO and organist Berkeley Mason. There are also two performances of Portsmouth Point (1967, 1936). The stereo has been reissued before, but I’m not so sure about the BBC SO version. There is a series of 1967 sweetmeats that will be new to many. They include Jeremiah Clarke’s you-know-what (the trumpeter is Rodney Webb of the LPO) in a very bold performance, the British Grenadiers in Stanford Robinson’s solid arrangement, and a series of marches; RAF March Past (Walford Davies), Lilliburlero in the Purcell-Kenneth Alford arrangement, Alford’s own Colonel Bogey, then Coates’s Dambusters. Boult loved this last. Then there are some important early things; the wartime Butterworth A Shropshire Lad with the Hallé, and Ethel Smyth’s Entente cordiale and Fête galante with the Light Symphony Orchestra in 1939,that some will know from LP transfers. Indeed many of the British pieces I’ve noted in this disc were released on an HMV Treasury LP called ‘Sir Adrian Boult conducts a concert of English Music’ [ED 2910921]. It might have been a nice touch to have included others, such as the 1937 Elgar Sospiri and the 1934 Gerontius Prelude. A discographical point to remember is that he recorded the Butterworth at only his second recording session, back in 1920. He supplemented it, if I can put it that way, in 1954 for Decca and for Lyrita in 1973.
 
CD 7 reissues all-Tchaikovsky. The Orchestral Suite No.3 in G is splendid and dates from 1974, and presented in a 1989 transfer. If you’ve heard Beulah’s transfer of Boult’s 1955 recording of the Suite you’ll know how underrated a Tchaikovsky conductor Boult could be. That Beulah also contained his recording of the Polish Symphony from 1956 but here we have some blockbusters from 1974, re-mastered back in 1995; Capriccio italien, Marche slave and the Gopak from Mazeppa. Disc 8 continues the theme russe. A rather chaste Romeo and Juliet, which he had first recorded in 1959, is heard in the 1966 EMI, and there are some delightful examples of his flair for ballet in the shape of the Op.71a suite from The Nutcracker and the Op.66 Sleeping Beauty suite, both from 1967 and I suspect making their first CD appearances. The 1812 overture opens CD9. It was a work he’d recorded back in 1952 with the LPO. There’s also The Snow Maiden’s Dance of the Tumblers, Mlada and the Capriccio espagnol to represent his meagre Rimsky-Korsakov discography. If you want to find any Stravinsky in his discography, you’ll have a hard job but there is a morsel - the Circus Polka, taped in 1967, and making inaugural CD appearance here. There are orchestral excerpts from The Bartered Bride and Vltava from Má Vlast (sluggish) - but when will someone release his wartime set of the cycle that the BBC recorded?
 
The final disc is a liquorice allsorts, all making 2013 CD debut. It’s a light-hearted selection, popular in the extreme, ranging from the Dance of the Hours, the Danse macabre, to the Ritual Fire Dance. And then things go superficially very un-Boult like with a rather bizarre sequence of Americana - The Battle Hymn of the Republic, four Sousa Marches, Anchors Aweigh, Gershwin’s Cuban Overture and Richard Rodgers’ Guadalcanal March. No question, however, that for the Boult Completist - are there many? - this is a must-have.
 
There is a four-page and one-column note about the trajectory of Boult’s career, which is also translated into French and German. At its competitive price this makes a strong appeal, though multiple performance of The Planets may well put off some prospective purchasers, especially those for whom one or other of Boult’s recordings is very much terra cognita. The 1937 and 1967 recordings in particular, and indeed all those making CD appearances for the first time deserve an enthusiastic welcome.
 
Jonathan Woolf  

Masterwork: The Planets

Holst review index
 
Full track-listing 
CD 1 59.52
Gustav Holst 1874-1934
The Planets Op.32/H125
1 I. Mars, the Bringer of War: Allegro 6.56
2 II. Venus, the Bringer of Peace: Adagio 7.55
3 III. Mercury, the Winged Messenger: Vivace 3.42
4 IV. Jupiter, the bringer of Jollity: Allegro giocoso 7.44
5 V. Saturn, the bringer of Old Age: Adagio 8.11
6 VI. Uranus, the Magician: Allegro 5.44
7 VII. Neptune, the Mystic: Andante 6.26
Ladies of the BBC Symphony Chorus (7)
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Recorded: 2-5.I.1945, Corn Exchange, Bedford
Producer: Walter Legge • Balance engineer: Arthur Clarke P 1989*
Recorded under the auspices of the British Council
Sir Edward Elgar 1857-1934
8 Introduction and Allegro Op.47 12.40
Solo quartet: Paul Beard, Barry Squire violins
Bernard Shore viola • Ambrose Gauntlett cello
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Recorded: 24.III.1937, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: Lawrance Collingwood • Balance engineer: Arthur Clarke P 1989*
 
CD 2 77.50
Gustav Holst 1874-1934
The Planets Op.32/H125
1 I. Mars, the Bringer of War 7.20
2 II. Venus, the Bringer of Peace 8.52
3 III. Mercury, the Winged Messenger 4.05
4 IV. Jupiter, the bringer of Jollity 8.03
5 V. Saturn, the bringer of Old Age 9.12
6 VII. Uranus, the Magician 6.27
7 VIII. Neptune, the Mystic 7.15
Ladies of the Ambrosian Singers (7)
New Philharmonia Orchestra
Recorded: 21-22.VII.1966, Kingsway Hall, London
Producer: Peter Andry • Balance engineer: Christopher Parker P 1967/1998*
Robert Simpson 1921-1997
Symphony No.1 (1951)
8 I. 9.39
9 II. 6.06
10 III. 10.46
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Recorded: 24 & 27.I.1956, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: Lawrance Collingwood • Balance engineer: Robert Beckett P 2002*
Recorded under the auspices of the British Council
 
CD 3 76.54
Gustav Holst
The Planets Op.32/H125
1 I. Mars, the Bringer of War 8.02
2 II. Venus, the Bringer of Peace 7.26
3 III. Mercury, the Winged Messenger 3.48
4 IV. Jupiter, the bringer of Jollity 7.59
5 V. Saturn, the bringer of Old Age 8.23
6 VI. Uranus, the Magician 6.27
7 VII. Neptune, the Mystic 6.21
Ladies of the Geoffrey Mitchell Choir (7)
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Recorded: 12 & 30.V, 4.VI and 31.VII.1978, Kingsway Hall & No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: Christopher Bishop • Balance engineer: Christopher Parker P 1979/2002*
Herbert Howells 1892-1983
Concerto for String Orchestra
8 I. Allegro, assai vivace - Lento, doloroso - Vivo, come prima 10.06
9 II. Quasi lento (teneramente) - Lento assai (appassionato) 8.41
10 III. Allegro vivo (ritmico e giocoso) - Ancora poco meno mosso - 9.33
Brioso - Come prima - Lento, dolente ma dolce
Denis Simons, Robert Growcott violins
John Chambers viola • Alexander Cameron cello
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Recorded: 17 & 19.XI.1973, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: Christopher Bishop • Balance engineer: Christopher Parker P 1974/1999* 
 
CD 4 74.17
Gustav Holst
A Choral Symphony Op.41/H155 (Keats)
1 Prelude: Invocation to Pan 2.55
2 I. Song and Bacchanal 9.56
3 II. Ode on a Grecian Urn 12.53
4 III. Scherzo: Fancy - Folly’s Song 5.27
5 IV. Finale 18.49
Dame Felicity Palmer soprano
London Philharmonic Choir chorus master John Alldis
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Recorded: 5, 7 & 9.III.1974, Kingsway Hall, London
Producer: Christopher Bishop • Balance engineer: Christopher Parker
P 1974/1985*
Sir Arthur Bliss 1891-1975
Music for Strings
6 I. Allegro moderato, energico 8.05
7 II. Andante, molto sostenuto - Poco allegretto (flowing) - Tempo I 9.17
8 III. Allegro molto - Allegro con spirito - Allegro molto - Presto 6.38
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Recorded: 20.XI.1973 & 20.II.1974, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: Christopher Bishop • Balance engineer: Christopher Parker P 1974/1999*
Recorded in the presence of the composer
 
CD 5 58.09
Sir Charles Hubert H. Parry 1848-1918
Symphony No.5 in B minor
1 I. Stress: Slow - Allegro - Tempo I - 6.10
2 II. Love: Lento 5.06
3 III. Play: Vivace - Tranquillo - Vivace - 4.11
4 IV. Now: Moderato - Tranquillo 7.40
5 Blest Pair of Sirens (Milton) 10.55
6 Symphonic Variations 13.18
7 Elegy for Brahms 10.23
London Philharmonic Choir chorus master John Alldis (5)
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Recorded: 21-23.XII.1966 (5), 4, 9, 19.X & 20.XII.1978, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: Christopher Bishop • Balance engineer: Christopher Parker P 1967 (5), 1979/1987*
 
CD 6 72.19
Sir William Walton 1902-1983
1 Crown Imperial - Coronation March (1937) 8.36
2 Orb and Sceptre - Coronation March (1953) 6.51
Recorded: 10.I.1977, Kingsway Hall, London
Producer: Christopher Bishop • Balance engineer: Christopher Parker P 1977/1995*
3 Portsmouth Point Overture 5.54
Recorded: 27.VII.1967, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: Anthony C. Griffith • Balance engineer: Christopher Parker P 1967/2002*
Jeremiah Clarke 1674-1707
4 Trumpet Voluntary (arr. Henry J. Wood) 2.44
Rodney Webb trumpet
Recorded: 3.VIII.1967, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: Anthony C. Griffith • Balance engineer: Neville Boyling P 1967/2013*
Trad arr. Stanford Robinson 1904-1984
5 The British Grenadiers 3.35
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Recorded: 3.VIII.1967, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: Anthony C. Griffith • Balance engineer: Neville Boyling P 1967/2013*
Henry Walford Davies 1869-1941
6 Royal Air Force March Past 3.10
Kenneth Alford 1881-1945 after Henry Purcell 1659-1695
7 Lilliburlero - March 1.47
Kenneth Alford 1881-1945
8 Colonel Bogey - March 4.10
Eric Coates 1886-1957
9 Dambusters March 4.05
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Recorded: 4.VIII.1967, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: Anthony C. Griffith • Balance engineer: Neville Boyling P 1967/2013*
George Butterworth 1885-1916
10 A Shropshire Lad - Rhapsody 8.28
Hallé Orchestra
Recorded: 5.III.1942, Houldsworth Hall, Manchester
Producer: Walter Legge • Balance engineer: Arthur Clarke P 2013*
Dame Ethel Smyth 1858-1944
11 Entente cordiale - Interlude (Two interlinked French folk melodies) 4.35
12 Fête galante - Minuet 4.46
Light Symphony Orchestra
Recorded: 3.III.1939, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: Joseph Batten • Balance engineer: Arthur Clarke P 2013*
Sir William Walton
13 Crown Imperial - Coronation March (1937) 8.17
Berkeley Mason organ
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Recorded: 16.IV.1937, Kingsway Hall, London
Producer: Lawrance Collingwood • Balance engineer: Arthur Clarke P 2013*
14 Portsmouth Point Overture 5.15
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Recorded: 3.XII.1936, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: Lawrance Collingwood • Balance engineer: Arthur Clarke P 2013*
 
CD 7 69.12
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky 1840-1893
Orchestral Suite No.3 in G Op.55
1 I. Elégie: Andantino molto cantabile 8.53
2 II. Valse mélancolique: Allegro moderato 5.45
3 III. Scherzo: Presto 4.26
IV. Tema con variazioni (Rodney Friend solo violin)
4 Tema (Andante con moto) - 0.53
5 Variazione I (Tempo del tema) - 0.52
6 Variazione II (Molto più mosso) - 0.37
7 Variazione III (Tempo del tema - 0.55
8 Variazione IV (Tempo del tema) - 1.12
9 Variazione V (Allegro risoluto) - 1.14
10 Variazione VI (Allegro vivace) - 0.32
11 Variazione VII (Moderato) - 0.48
12 Variazione VIII (Largo) - 1.00
13 Variazione IX (Allegro molto vivace) - 1.03
14 Variazione X (Allegro vivo e un poco rubato) - 2.19
15 Variazione XI (Moderato mosso) - 1.46
16 Variazione XII: Finale (Polacca: Moderato assai) 6.00
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Recorded: 12, 14 & 17.VI.1974, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: Christopher Bishop • Balance engineer: Robert Gooch P 1975/1989*
17 Capriccio italien Op.45 16.28
18 Marche slave Op.31 9.57
19 Mazeppa - Gopak (Act II) 3.51
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Recorded: 25, 28.IV & 1.V.1974, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: Christopher Bishop • Balance engineer: Christopher Parker P 1975/1995*
 
CD 8 76.45
Mikhail Glinka 1804-1857
1 Ruslan and Ludmila - Overture 5.45
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
2 Romeo and Juliet - Fantasy Overture 19.11
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Recorded: 22-23.X.1966, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: Anthony C. Griffith • Balance engineer: Christopher Parker P 1968/1989*
The Nutcracker - Suite Op.71a
3 I. Ouverture miniature 3.00
II. Danses caractéristiques
4 a. Marche: Tempo di marcia viva 2.21
5 b. Danse de la fee dragée: Andante non troppo 1.46
6 c. Danse russe - Trepak: Tempo di Trepak, molto vivace 1.09
7 d. Danse arabe: Allegretto 2.59
8 e. Danse chinoise: Allegro moderato 1.11
9 f. Danse des mirlitons: Moderato assai 2.36
10 Pas de deux (No.14a from the complete ballet Op.71) 4.21
11 III. Valse des fleurs 6.17
The Sleeping Beauty Op.66 - Suite
12 I. Introduction - March (Prologue, No.1) 6.03
13 II. Waltz (Act I, No.6) 4.18
III. Divertissement (Act III)
14 a. Pas de caractère (Puss in Boots and the White Cat) (No.24) 1.47
15 b. Polacca (No.22) 4.09
16 c. Pas de deux (Variation 2 - Aurora) (No.28) 1.41
17 d. Pas d’action (Aurora’s Variation) (Act I, No.8c) 2.53
18 e. Pas d’action (Adagio) (Act I, No.8) 5.10
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Recorded: 8-11.VIII.1967, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: Brian B. Culverhouse • Balance engineer: Peter Bown P 1967/2013*
 
CD 9 74.12
1 1812 Overture Op.29 16.57
Recorded: 28.II.1967, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: Anthony C. Griffith • Balance engineer: Christopher Parker P 1968/1989*
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov 1844-1908
The Snow Maiden
2 Dance of the Tumblers (Act III) 3.59
Recorded: 22-23.X.1966, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: Anthony C. Griffith • Balance engineer: Christopher Parker P 1968/1989*
Mlada
3 Procession of the Nobles (Act III) 4.43
Capriccio espagnol Op.34
4 I. Alborada - 1.13
5 II. Variazioni - 4.24
6 III. Alborada - 1.14
7 IV. Scena e canto gitano - 5.11
8 V. Fandango asturiano 3.27
Recorded: 25, 28.IV & 1.V.1974, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: Christopher Bishop • Balance engineer: Christopher Parker P 1975/1995*
Igor Stravinsky 1882-1971
9 Circus Polka 3.08
Recorded: 27.VII.1967, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: Anthony C. Griffith • Balance engineer: Christopher Parker P 1968/2013*
Bedrˇich Smetana 1824-1884
The Bartered Bride
10 Overture 7.00
11 Polka (Act I) 4.23
12 Furiant (Act II) 2.08
13 Dance of the Comedians (Act III) 4.21
14 Má vlast - Vltava 11.59
Recorded: 22-23.X.1966, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: Anthony C Griffith • Balance engineer: Christopher Parker P 1966/2013*
London Philharmonic Orchestra
 
CD 10 60.39
Amilcare Ponchielli 1834-1886
1 La Gioconda - Dance of the Hours 8.34
Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari 1876-1948
2 I gioielli della Madonna - Intermezzo 3.22
Manuel de Falla 1876-1946
3 El amor brujo - Ritual Fire Dance 3.31
Camille Saint-Saëns 1835-1921
4 Danse macabre 6.27
Josef Franz Wagner 1856-1908
5 Under the Double Eagle - March 3.09
Carl Teike 1864-1922
6 Alte Kamaraden 3.51
George Gershwin 1898-1937
7 Cuban Overture 10.19
John William Steffe 1830-1890
8 The Battle Hymn of the Republic 3.36
John Philip Sousa 1854-1932
9 The Stars and Stripes Forever - March 4.04
10 The Washington Post - March 3.03
11 El Capitan - March 2.16
12 The Liberty Bell - March 3.27
Charles Zimmerman 1861-1916
13 Anchors Aweigh - March 2.41
Richard Rodgers 1902-1979
14 Victory at Sea - Guadalcanal March 2.13
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Recorded: 28 (2), 29 (1 & 14).VII, 3 (3, 4, 7, 9) & 4 (5, 6, 8-13).VIII.1967, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: Anthony C. Griffith • Balance engineer: Christopher Parker (1, 2, 14), Neville Boyling
P 1967/2013*
P as shown. Digital remastering P as shown.



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