Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

TCHAIKOVSKY Capriccio Italien
TCHAIKOVSKY Serenade for Strings
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 8
HUMPERDINCK Hansel and Gretel overture

ADD Mono - rec Colston Hall, Bristol, 9 Apr 1940 (Capriccio); Abbey Rd, 21 Jul 1932 (Beethoven); Abbey Rd, 25 June 1937 (Serenade); Abbey Rd, 25 July 1932 (Hansel).
BEULAH 1PD12 [74.19]

Beulah have shown uncommon confidence in Boult in his early years. Their catalogue is the home of many of his earliest recordings. The Boult known to most of us now in our forties and fifties is the apparently starchy taciturn Brit with the ramrod back and the bristling moustache who, in the 1960s and 1970s, trotted into the EMI studios to record British music - LP after LP. As any history of the BBCSO will show, Boult was anything but an exclusive specialist in native British music. He conducted all comers and especially in the 1930s pioneered modern European scores quite freely. This disc reminds us of the vintage commercial recordings he made of the core repertoire.

The Capriccio is a bombastic work which for all its brilliance is pretty thin gruel. Boult however gives it one of its best ever outings. He does this redeeming work through the minutest attention to phrasing, dynamics and pacing. The first five minutes reveal parallels with the Sibelius of Finlandia (Boult's 1960s Sibelius had the same granitic swing) and Symphony No. 2 - the latter a work of Sibelius's Italian summers. The record surfaces quietly burble, sizzle and crackle but major trauma damage has been removed. The recording was made in Bristol in the early days of the war when the orchestra had been evacuated for its own safety but before Bristol fell prey to some of the most homicidal raids. The orchestra play with real engagement despite the arduous conditions and worries of the time. They were soon to decamp to Bedford and comparative safety.

Boult directs an alert and exciting performance of Beethoven 8 with many of the same qualities as are in evidence in his contemporary recording of Schubert's Great C major (also on Beulah and very recently released). In fact, if you close your eyes for a moment, the stylistic relationship with the Schubert is seamless. The Tchaikovsky Serenade, though done with a lilt (II) and a sigh (III) and dating from 1937 during the orchestra's vintage years, seems far from smooth and when it does acquire suaveness it becomes a shade superficial. The Humperdinck takes us back to Abbey Road four days after the Beethoven had been set down. It represents an orchestra and conductor in good heart giving a flowing and playful performance.

Full notes by Bill and Gill Newman and, on the cover, a delightful drawing of Boult rehearsing. Minimal engineering intervention is intended to preserve the original sound uncompromised.

A souvenir of Boult the antithesis of the Karajan/Bernstein school; a man with a subtle baton technique and no sense of podium balletics. Integrity shines from these recordings reminding us of other dimensions to a man who is and was so much more than the archetypal English gentleman.

These are, by the way, commercial recordings, not studio work for broadcast.

Rob Barnett

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