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William Boughton: A Celebration on Record
rec. 1983-2018
NIMBUS NI1712 [4 CDs: 250:44]

There is much sound musicianship on display in this extended collection, but I am unconvinced that the release will have much appeal beyond its value as a souvenir for committed fans of William Boughton.

It needs to be said at once that Boughton is a conductor of insight and command. He has been very much a house-conductor for Nimbus over the past quarter of a century, the go-to musician guaranteed to provide unfailingly musical performance, ever-reliable, not given to interpretative eccentricity, and with a very wide repertoire. His performances are secure, clear and suitably rhythmical, with a clarity of detail. His work in creating both the English String Orchestra and English Symphony Orchestra has been of signal value to the British music scene, as has his breadth of repertoire.

I have two issues with the release. First, the attempt to cover the wide range of Boughton’s performances has led to a selection of far too many ‘bleeding chunks’, some little beyond snippets. This type of selection does less than justice to both the works and the musicianship of the performances. Composers conceive full works; a movement can only fully appreciated in the context of the whole, for its meaning is determined in context and relationship. Without those frames of understanding, it is incomplete in so many ways. Similarly, the conductor – at least a good one like Boughton – conceives a symphony as both a whole and in detail. A single movement is a very incomplete demonstration of that vision. A collection of fewer works, but more completely realised, would be a better tribute.

The second problem: some selections are disappointing, though others are fine. Of the latter, Martin Jones’s performance of Finzi’s Eclogue is superb, balancing poetic playing with sympathetic accompaniment. It demonstrates the wisdom of recording practice at Nimbus: prefer the long take to the piecemeal. A single, tiny finger-fluff by Jones is not edited out, and the sense of live-music making is retained. Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus is not very characterful. Compare it with the pin-point precision of Neville Marriner or authority of Vernon Handley, and the performance seems superficial.

There are lovely moments on all four discs, but a few disappointments. Especially in string works, but not only there, divided strings would have given greater clarity, and have been a more authentic representation of the composer’s expectations.

The booklet contains Boughton’s extended, 17-page essay, principally autobiographical. The writing is light, anecdotal, with valuable insights into both the history of his orchestras and the process of recording. There is little specific on the music.

Michael Wilkinson
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Suite mignonne, Op.98a [7.16]
Aaron COPLAND (1900-1990)
Rodeo. 4 Dance Episodes, IV Hoe-Down [3.27]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Piano Concerto No.2, Op.102, III Allegro [6.16]
Elizabeth MACONCHY (1907-1994)
Epyllion II Scherzo.Vivo [2.55]
Samuel BARBER (1910-1981)
Violin Concerto, Op.14, I Allegro [10.45]
Thea MUSGRAVE (b.1928)
Loch Ness – A postcard from Scotland [10.27]
Toru TAKEMITSU (1930-1996)
Nostalghia for violin and string orchestra [14.14]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1972-1958)
Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus [10.56]

Charles Hubert PARRY (1848-1918)
From Life to Death: Mors et vitae [18.42]
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Sospiri, Op. 70 [5.15]
May Song [3.55]
Dream Children, Op.43, I Andante [3.43]
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
Florida Suite, IV At Night [7.54]
Oboe Concerto, I Rondo Pastorale [6.54]
Gustav HOLST (1874-1934)
The Planets Suite, Op.32, III Mercury [3.55]
Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)
Two Old English Songs, Sally in Our Alley [3.39]
Two Old English Songs, Cherry Ripe [3.20]
An Irish Melody [7.59]

Georg TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Concerto in D Major for trumpet and strings [7.06]
William BOYCE (1711-1779)
Symphony No 6 in F major [7.21]
J.C. BACH (1735-1782)
Grand Overture, Op.18 No 5 in E major for double orchestra [14.11]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
String Symphony No 10 in B minor [7.30]
Anton ARENSKY (1861-1906)
Variations on a theme of Tchaikovsky, Op. 35 [14.19]
Tomaso ALBINONI (1671-1751)
Adagio in G minor (Giozotto) [9.35]

George BUTTERWORTH (1885-1916)
The Banks of the Green Willow [6.09]
Gerald FINZI (1901-1956)
Music for ‘Love’s Labour Lost’, Soliloquy III [1.19]
Eclogue for piano and strings [10.00]
Edward ELGAR
Nursery Suite [21.00]
Michael TIPPETT (1905-1998)
Concerto for Double String Orchestra, III Allegro molto [7.31]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Suite on English Folk Tunes, I Cakes & Ale [2.35]
Nocturne for tenor, seven obligato instruments and strings, Op. 60, Shakespeare Sonnet XLIII [5.03]
John JOUBERT (1927-2019)
Symphony No.3, Op.178 on themes from the opera ‘Jane Eyre’, IV Whitecross Rectory, Lento-Allegro [5.42]

William Boughton (conductor)
Soloists: Jerry Hadley (tenor), Martin Jones (piano), Raphael Wallfisch (cello), Thomas Waddington (cello), Hu Kun (violin), Daniel Hope (violin), Susan Lynn (violin), Maurice Bourge (oboe), John Wallace (trumpet), Daniel Trodden (tuba), Audrey Douglas (harp), Robert Johnson (harp), Adrian Partington (organ)
Ensembles: English String Orchestra, English Symphony Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Philharmonia Orchestra, Südwestdeutsches Kammerorchester Pforzheim

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