HNH HAS ISSUED two more discs of English music conducted by Sir Adrian Boult, both derived from the Lyrita catalogue. One of these (HNH 4078) is devoted to music by Frank Bridge; a Suite for String Orchestra, a Lament for String Orchestra (in memory of "Catherine, aged 9," who perished in the sinking of the Lusitania), an entr'acte called Rosemary , the Christmas dance Sir Roger de Coverley , and Two Old English Songs . The other disc (HNH 4076) is a collection of marches extracted from larger works by Parry, Stanford, Howells, Walton, Holst et al ., the most effective numbers being two less ambitious independent works, Eric Coates' Dam Busters and Percy Grainger's Children's March ("Over the Hills and Far Away") . The London Philaharmonic is the orchestra on both records, with some of the marches, however played by the New Philharmonia.
Perhaps this is not the most intriguing music of its kind, but it is extremely well played and hamsomely recorded, and it does call attention yet again to Boult's extraordinary service to English music. It happens that Sir Adrian celebrates his 90th birthday today, and it is an occasion we migh all celebrate with him, for his distinguished activity over the last six decades has by no means been limited to English music, any more than his hundreds of recordings have been enjoyed only by English listeners.
Of course his definitive recordings of music by Vaughan Williams, Holst, Elgar, Bax and other Britons does command a large portion of his discography (with some individual titles appearing as many as a half-dozen times over the years), but this knight of the revolving table has given us three Wagner collections in which he shows as profound an understanding of that composer's idiom as that of his beloved Williams. There are superb readings of all the Brahms symphonies and several of Beethovan's; there are persuasive versions of works by Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Schubert, Mahler and Rachmaninoff which are at once aristofratic and impassioned; there is a beautifully detailed yet free-flowing performance of the Franck Symphony that is second to none in commanding new respect for that much-abused work, and on the same disc an incredibly convincing presentation of Liszt's sometimes contemptously regarded Les Preludes (don't be put off by the exceptionally ugly cover).
Indeed, Sir Adrian may well be the closest thing to a trans-Atlantic equivalent of the phenomenon in our own country known as Eugene Ormandy - the most consistently reliable conductor we have among us in terms of taste, understanding and flair in the broadest repetory as well as the near-ultimate in terms of polish, finesse and the other elements that contribute to overall professionalism. For years it has been fashionable in some quarters to underrate Ormandy, and Boult has been all but ignored in most American Discussions of The Great Conductors. It surely has not bothered him: he has taken genuine pleasure in introducing Toscanini to his orchestra and to British radio audiences, in welcoming Stokowski to England, in praising his junior colleagues Bernard Haitink and Andre Previn for their performances of English works long held to be his private domain. There cannot be a conductor without ego, but few have been as unselfconscious as Boult in his joyous celebration of his art.
He is not quite the "dean" of living conductors.Paul Paray will be 93 next month, and is more active than Boult in terms of public concerts and touring. It would be a coup for an American orchestra to persuade Sir Adrian to visit our shores again, but that does not seem very likely; his activity is almost entirely confined to the recording studio now, and we can only be grateful that he continues to be so productive at a time of such remarkable achievements in the art of sound recording. Since he is - like Toscanini and Beecham before him - a genius in finding real substance in light music, I cherish the hope that he may yet give us a whole disc of Eric Coates (the two London suites, Cinderella , etc.). In the meantime, he promised a year ago to record The planets again, remarking: "I think perhaps I can add to what I've done in the past. You know that I worked at it under Gustav's eyes. His own version is very brisk. Maybe I will make it a bit more lively this time." (Boult's fourth recording of the Holst masterwork was released 12 years ago on Angel S-36420, and its immediate predecessor, recorded in Vienna, has been circulating on Westminster WGS-8126. By far the finest of all recorded performance of this music is his second one, vintage 1953, reissued just last month in fairly successful artifical stereo on Everest 3443.)
In the meantime, Boult is well represented on various domestic labels, and some of his finest recent recordings, which may never be issued in this country, are available as imports. His recordings of The Planets and the symphonies of Vaughan Williams and Elgar have achieved the status of classics everywhere; the following birthday list is made up of outstanding recordings by Sir Adrian which have been less noticed here. All are with the London Philharmonic Orchestra except where noted otherwise.
BAX: Tintagel; The Garden of Fand; Mediterranean; Northern Ballad No. 1. HNH 4034.
BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto . Josef Suk, violin; New Philharmonia Orch. Vanguard SRV-353SD.
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral) . HMV ASD-3456.
BRAHMS: Symphony No. 2; Alto Rhapsody. Janet Baker & chorus in Rhapsody . Angel S-37032.
BRAHMS: Symphony No. 4; Academic Festival Overture . Angel S-37034.
DVORAK: Cello Concerto . Mstislav Rostropovich, cello; Royal Philharmonic. Seraphim S-60136.
ELGAR: Falstaff; The Sanguine Fan, ballet; BACH/ELGAR: Fantasia and Fugue in C minor . HMV ASD-2970.
ELGAR: Overtures-Cockaiane; Froissart; Alassio . HMV ASD-2822.
FRANCK: Symphony in D minor; LISZT: Les Preludes. New Symphony Orch. Quintessence PMC-7050.
HINDEMITH: Symphony in E-flat. Everest SDBR-3008.
HOLST: The Hymn of Jesus. BBC Symphony Orch. & Chorus; The Perfect Fool, ballet suite; Egdon Heath. English Decca Jubilee J B 49.
SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 9 in C major. HMV ASD-2856.
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 6. Everest SDBR-3008.
TCHAIKOVSKY: Romeo and Juliet; 1812 Overture; Marche slave. Odyssey 32 16 0238.
TCHAIKOVSKY: Suite No. 3 in G. HMV ASD-3135.
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Job, a Masque for Dancing. London Symphonic Orch. Angel S-36773.
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: The Pilgrim's Progress (complete opera). With soloists and chorus. Angel SCL-3785.
WAGNER: Overtures and preludes from Die Meistersinger, Tristan und Isolde. Tannhauser. New Philharmonic Orch. Angel S-36871.
WAGNER: Excerpts from Tristan, Siegfried, Walkure, Gotterdammerung, Tannhauser. Angel S-36998.
WALTON: Crown Imperial; Orb and Sceptre; ELGAR: Pomp and Circumstance Marches 1-5; Imperial March; Empire March. Angel S-37436.
MARCHES by Sousa, Alford, Davies, J.F. Wagner, Coates, Rodgers, et al. Quintessence PMC-7068. CAPTION: Picture, Sir Adrian Boult by Frederick Bass, London