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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Symphony no. 9 in C major, D.944 The Great C major [54:20] (2)
Luigi CHERUBINI (1760-1842)
Anacréon: Overture [09:30] (1)
Peter CORNELIUS (1824-1874)
The Barber of Baghdad: Overture [07:53] (3)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (1), BBC Symphony Orchestra (2, 3)/Sir Adrian Boult
Recorded 8th March 1963 in the Royal Festival Hall, London (1), 11th August 1969 in the Royal Albert Hall, London (2), 26th September 1954 in the BBC Studios (3)
BBC LEGENDS BBCL 4072-2 [72:05]


 

As the BBC Symphony Orchestraís first, and long-standing conductor, Boult might be considered the BBC legend but so far this series has dedicated only two discs to him (the present issue dates from about four years ago). At least the first disc gave us his Schubert "Unfinished", which he had recorded only in the 1930s, and works by Bizet, Ravel and Sibelius that he never recorded at all. This one is based around the Schubert "Great C major", which he recorded three times. Now that the last recording, from 1972, is out on CD at last, the question is, does the present issue have anything to offer.

Regarding Boultís interpretation, which is an essential one, I have written at length in my review of the EMI issue and will not repeat myself here. On the present CD Boultís former orchestra plays very well, the recording is pretty successful for a live occasion in a hall with problematic acoustics, the audienceís expectorations are about the norm for this sort of thing and wild applause breaks out while the final chord is still playing. Under studio conditions in the excellent venue of the Kingsway Hall the LPO is a shade more polished, but I would trade that off if the live performance had an extra degree of incandescence; not that the EMI version is studio-bound Ė far from it. I seem to remember hearing a relay from the Proms in the 1970s that did have just that bit extra - or am I just imagining it, does anyone remember? - but the 1969 one here impresses most of all by its consistency with the 1972 recording. In other words, if the studio recording had never been made, we would accept this live one gratefully, but the studio recording was made Ö

If you already have the much-issued Brahms Academic Festival Overture and Alto Rhapsody with Janet Baker which complete the EMI issue, then the addition of two new pieces to the Boult discography might sway you to the BBC Legends disc. You can hear that the RPO was still working to get the notes of the Cherubini under their fingers - not that they trip up, but you get the idea they might at any moment. Boult doesnít make life easy for them with a (rightly) swift tempo. The only other time Iíve heard this piece it went rather slower and sounded very staid; I donít remember the conductor. Boult also obtains some notable dynamic shading. The Cornelius is an interesting alternation of jokey vivacity and swooning romanticism. Flexibility is of the essence and Boult gets it just right. The 1963 RPO recording is very good, the 1954 one is close and airless Ė neither better or worse than the recordings Boult was making for Nixa at about this time. Itís nice to hear (if we doubted it) that Sir Adrianís knack of taking a little-known piece and giving it a real interpretation, not just a run-through, was not confined to British composers.

I do hope more Boult issues will follow from BBC Legends, and that they will concentrate on music that the conductor did not record commercially, unless the compilers of the series really feel they have access to a performance that is markedly superior to the studio one.

And one last point. Boult recorded quite extensively during the 1950s and early 1960s for labels such as Nixa, Concert Hall, Vanguard, Everest, Westminster and World Record Club. Could those holding the rights to these recordings not be a little more generous about letting us hear them?

Christopher Howell

see also review by Chris Fifield



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