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Sir Adrian BOULT
BBC Legends

CHERUBINI Overture Anacreon
CORNELIUS Overture Barber of Baghdad
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 9
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/BBC Symphony Orchestra
Sir Adrian Boult
Recorded 1963/1954/1969
BBC Legends BBCL 4072-2

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The best of this excellent disc lies in the wonderful magic of the opening Andante of Schubert's Great C major (once the Prom audience has settled). There's an unruffled sedateness to this introduction. This quality personifies the 80 year-old Boult with his long baton very much in the Nikisch/Wood mould. This is followed by a seamless and subtle transition to the Allegro, itself certainly 'ma non troppo' (however it's a pity he doesn't have the courage to do the first movement repeat). The Andante also emphasises the second part of Schubert's tempo indication, in this case 'con moto', and trots rather than plods along (another opening covered by much irritating coughing) - the oboe solo divinely shaped and phrased; indeed there is fine playing from many individual players in this movement. Subtle placing of accents and warm violin/cello sounds characterise the scherzo, whilst the energetic finale bubbles along effervescently despite coming at the end of a concert which had included the symphonic four-movement second piano concerto by Brahms. No flagging violins here! Apart from the disgusting sounds of the audience, balance is excellent for Boult knew exactly how to deal with the acoustics of the Royal Albert Hall. The symphony was a favourite over 40 years since he first conducted it in Birmingham in 1931 to the last recording in 1972 with the LPO. His evident love for the work shines through in this account.

The two overtures are hardly part of today's repertoire though they certainly had their place in the first half of the 20th century as part of Hans Richter's heritage to British concert programmes dating back to the 1870s. They were especial favourites and Boult, who clearly believed in the work judging by this virile performance, would certainly have heard either him or Nikisch conducting either work. Anacreon was played at the start of the RFH concert in 1963 celebrating the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Philharmonic Society back in 1813, when it also started the inaugural concert. The studio recording of Cornelius's overture may be mightily flawed in quality and some of its playing (a studio recording for the BBC Transcription Service) suspect, but by the more lusciously romantic parts involving Sidonie Goossens on her harp we are in business.

Christopher Fifield

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