This is a splendid disk! Boult’s 1934 Great C major has
long been a favourite of mine and it’s good to see it available
once again and in very good sound. Although Boult recorded this
work towards the end of his life, with the London Philharmonic,
this performance has a freshness and sparkle – these things are
not missing from his later performance, rather this is a younger
man’s view of a towering masterpiece – Boult was in his mid thirties
when he made this recording, and still Dr Boult, not Sir Adrian
as the booklet calls him, the knighthood didn’t come until 1937.
Boult builds the
slow introduction to the first movement gradually, making the
climaxes grow easily from the music. The allegro bursts
in at a cracking pace, Boult slows for the second subject –
some lovely wind playing here – and then back to the chase.
No exposition repeat, as you’d expect, and we plunge into the
development, which starts with the most exquisite pianissimo
– this recording has a very wide dynamic range.
The slow movement
is taken at a nice walking pace without loosing any of its stateliness,
the bass articulates clearly and precisely and the oboe is as
winsome as you’d like it to be. Here is a walk in the autumn
sun, with the odd shower to disturb your enjoyment of the scenery.
Boult is so much lighter than many conductors and this shows
in the easy flow of the music, and the climaxes don’t overpower.
It’s obvious that
Boult is using a smaller orchestra than would be used today
and because of this the dance–like scherzo has a more earthy
fell to it than is usual. It’s a real light fantastic and full
of Austrian peasant dancing. The trio is packed with wonderful
harmonie sounds. The finale is a no–holds–barred race
to the finish where Boult rushes, in an unhurried way, with
the clearest of articulation from the strings, to a thrilling
conclusion, fully worthy of this Symphony.
of the Unfinished is almost as fine. With excellent playing
from the National Symphony Orchestra (led at this time by the
great David McCallum) this performance is dramatic – this is
a dramatic Symphony but too often we hear the two movements
played at almost identical tempi which takes all sense of tension
and excitement from it.
from Rosamunde is a pleasant make–weight. There’s a bit
of “scooping up” in the violins but that’s period performance
for you. A delicate end to a disk full of wonderful things.
The notes in the
booklet are good and the transfers have been achieved with care,
cleaned up, and are full of bloom and presence. This is well
worth having not just as an historical document but as an example
of performances of works which we might just be taking for granted
and which are freshly minted for us here.