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Brahms: Symphony No. 3; Elgar: Symphony No. 1 / Sir Adrian Boult

Album Summary

>Brahms, Johannes : Symphony no 3 in F major, Op. 90
>Elgar, Edward : Symphony no 1 in A flat major, Op. 55
Conductor Ensembles Composers

Notes & Reviews:

Acclaimed British conductor Sir Adrian Boult's friendship with Sir Edward Elgar ensured that all his interpretations of the composer's works were without question authoritative, achieving an iconic status. In his notes, Martin Cotton emphatically states that the 1976 'live' recording in wonderful stereo of Elgar's Symphony No.1 from the Proms, 'is completely astonishing'. Boult, one of the last living conductors to have known Elgar, had effectively been blessed by him: 'I feel that my reputation in the future is safe in your hands' - and here he gives what is arguably his greatest performance of the work. The Proms recording of Brahms's Symphony No.3 from 1977 is in superb stereo and represents Boult's 'golden years'.

MusicWeb International
I still hanker after Klemperer's Brahms but this smoother Boult recording will be more to some people's tastes especially as there was a traceable line of tradition from composer to conductor - something even more true, of course, of Elgar and Boult. Though he recorded the Elgar First many times, this performance has a vitality which I find lacking in his Lyrita recording made the same year. The urgency which I missed in the first movement of his Brahms is there in abundance in the first movement of the Elgar.

Fanfare Magazine
Clearly, this is recommended to all Boult fans and, I'd venture, to anyone wanting really excellent live recordings of these two works.

Gramophone Magazine, August 2012
The sense of joyous homecoming in the closing pages is truly overwhelming in its cumulative impact and rightly accorded a thunderous ovation. There's much that is cherishable, too, in the performance of Brahms's Third...Again, Boult's contribution evinces a sureness of purpose, unassuming honesty and lofty wisdom that stem from a lifetime's experience...generous coupling that shows the veteran Boult at his inimitable best. Absolutely not to be missed.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Royal Albert Hall, London.


Sir Adrian in Concert
Sir Edward Elgar completed only two symphonies during his long and distinguished career. These complex, massive works do not give up their secrets easily. While many early 20th century composers languished under the influence of Brahms, Elgar displayed a close affinity to Bruckner. The symphonic arguments of both unfold slowly, with great dignity and nobility. Indeed the designation "nobilmente" was among Elgar's favorites, and he used this word to describe the character of the first movement of his First Symphony. For conductor and listener alike, however, there is a fine line between nobility and tedium.

Two conductors who skillfully and consistently walked that line were Sir John Barbirolli and Sir Adrian Boult. The former's approach was generally calm and collected. Barbirolli favored slow (but never sluggish) tempos and grand sweeping phrases that lend an appropriately Brucknerian weight and intensity to this music. By comparison, Boult seems brash and impulsive--even in his old age; he was pushing 90 when he gave this performance in July 1976. His tempos are brisk and bracing without ever undermining the majesty of Elgar's richly melodic utterances.

Both conductors were uncommonly sensitive to Elgar's rich instrumental colors, though Boult tends to give more prominence to the harp and the winds--particularly the clarinets. This impression, though, may be due in part to the recording engineers. This BBC broadcast tape boasts exceptional clarity and openness with only the tiniest hint of analog tape hiss. By comparison, Barbirolli's otherwise excellent EMI recording ([[ASIN:B002HHH3W2 Elgar: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2; In the South; Serenade for Strings]]) sounds veiled and distant.

If Barbirolli's interpretation was inspired by Bruckner, Boult focuses on the score's Straussian heroism. Thus his pacing is consistently quicker than Barbirolli's--four minutes faster in the opening movement; three in the adagio. This generally works in Boult's favor, especially in his haunting, ethereal reading of the adagio. Barbirolli's prosaic approach to the score's radiant slow movement lacks Boult's warmth and lyricism. However, in the sweeping finale Boult seems frantic and incoherent next to the symphonic sweep and volatility of the Barbirolli disc.

Boult's Brahms 3rd is rather less remarkable. This performance was given over a year after the Elgar, and Boult appears to have aged considerably, at least in musical terms. This time around his tempos are quite a bit slower than the norm. Even Martin Cotton, in his gushing booklet essay, has to admit that "the tempo for the first movement may seem a little slow for the Allegro con brio marking." But the problem here is more than a matter of tempo alone; the "brio" is also absent. Phrases don't end; they simply run out of steam. Attacks are softened, and the score's many dramatic outbursts are muted. That said, there is still much beauty here, especially in the lush sound and glorious playing of the BBC Symphony.

Submitted on 06/17/12 by Tom Godell 
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Works Details

>Brahms, Johannes : Symphony no 3 in F major, Op. 90
  • Conductor: Adrian Boult
  • Ensemble: BBC Symphony Orchestra
  • Running Time: 35 min. 27 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 1883

>Elgar, Edward : Symphony no 1 in A flat major, Op. 55
  • Conductor: Adrian Boult
  • Running Time: 45 min. 5 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 1907-1908