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Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No. 3 in D major Polish Op.29 (1875) [42:07]
Ouverture solenelle 1812 Op.49 (1880) [17:33]
Hamlet; overture (1888) [17:56]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Adrian Boult
rec. 1952, Kingsway Hall, London
RETROSPECTIVE 93185 [78:36]
Experience Classicsonline

This release doesn’t seem to be dated so I can’t tell whether - as has been the case in the past - this company is guilty of a little over-confidence in its assertions of ‘first ever CD’ status. Certainly Beulah has issued the ‘Polish’ on 4PD12 where it was coupled with the Suite No.3 - including the Theme and variations. The differences between the two transfers I’ll deal with here and now. The Beulah is more processed, and somewhat more opaque but claims to be a stereo tape; this Retrospective is more open with correspondingly more surface noise. The transfer has clearly come via a good condition mono LP.

Boult was a good Tchaikovskian, which shouldn’t really surprise many, given his architectural strengths. In this symphony however he runs up against - to keep matters local - two of the leading native conductors of the composer: Beecham and Coates. Boult’s control is undoubted and those little ensemble lapses and rhythmic infelicities - to which Boult could be prone in the LPO days - don’t especially concern one overmuch. He lacks, in the end, the brio and panache of Beecham (RPO) from 1947, and the sheer vitality and excitement of Coates (LSO) from 1932. Such things are clear when one listens side by side, but if one didn’t one would assuredly admire the control of span, the unselfconscious unfolding of the glorious tunes in the first movement especially, and the sense of sweep generated. He allows instrumental soloists their head - the bassoon notably - and he finds a rich vein of nobility in the slow movement, as one might have anticipated. I should point out that the Coates was quite viciously cut in places but even where it survives pretty much intact - in the opening movement for instance - the mercurial Coates is a far fierier task-master. Beecham offers contrastive tempo modifications.

The couplings are certainly not trivial. The ‘1812’ avoids almost all the clichés embedded in the opus, and it emerges grandly conceived and clear sighted in its more pressing musical values. Hamlet pursues similar goals, but here again Boult has strong competition from an English conductor: Constant Lambert, whose earlier 1942 performance is still hugely evocative and grips tighter than the 1952 mono Boult recording.

Boult admirers nevertheless will want to sample this authoritative trio of performances which may well fit the discographic bill nicely.

Jonathan Woolf 





















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