Here is the sequel to FHR’s hugely successful volume 1 which mixed Walton and Britten. Again two composers share the CD set. Full discographical and sessional detail is included in the booklet which includes Boult’s original notes for the Schumann and an outstanding essay by Colin Anderson.
The same leaping and almost irritable energy that we found in Boult’s Sibelius (Omega and Somm) can be heard here in his Schumann. Boult pushes the tempo forward unrelentingly. Listen to the way phrases almost collide in the first movement of the First Symphony - all to exultantly exciting effect. Try the flickering woodwind in I at 6:00 and again in the wild-eyed - even manic - finale. Then again do sample the whiplash sprint ofRead more the Symphony No. 3’s opening. It’s pulse-racing stuff. For the slower movements Boult allows time for ideas to expand. The woodwind sound very good indeed and may even have been emphasised at the balance desk. Similar traits also surface in Boult’s Schumann 4 which again reminds us how effective an orchestral trainer Boult was. Punchy surging elan is the most instantly registered aspect of the Boult-Schumann Second; that and a burly sovereignty. In the Lebhaft finale of the recent CPO recording of No. 4 Frank Beermann takes 5:33 while the intense and even furious Boult completes in a galloping 5:00 dead. Sadly Boult does not enjoy the opulence of recording technology that allows those Rhineland horns to rise in a towering aureate wave in the way they do for Beermann, Muti, Kubelik or Barenboim but by heck is this exciting playing! Boult, The British Golovanov.
Turning to the Berlioz tracks we have the interesting but low-key Waverley in sound that is not of the best but once one gets to the allegro we again encounter the firebrand Boult driving fast music as fast as - and faster than - it will go. Le Corsaire sounds so much better with the analogue hush more distant and the intrinsic music signal rich and full, the stormy-surge of the strings faithfully put across and the massive rhythmic rush of the finale put across with as much power as the best recordings of Francesca da Rimini (Stokowski, Mravinsky and Ovchinnikov). The same goes for the neglected Le Roi Lear. The steely Mendelssohnian delicacy of Beatrice and Benedict stands out as does the brash abandon of the closing pages. Rob Roy looks to the hunting chivalric themes of the Scott novels - note link back to Waverley. For Benvenuto Cellini and Les Franc-Juges the original tapes must not have been in as good heart as those for the first four works on CD 3 as there is a distancing not felt elsewhere except in Waverley - even so the dangerously exhilarating music-making is still there. For all the worship of Colin Davis in Berlioz these Boults are something special. We can hear that also in the sprint and shudder of the concluding Carnaval Romain where the sound quality finds something of the vibrant immediacy of Le Corsaire.
The recordings on this set are - except as noted - vivid indeed with soloistic pages reaching out strongly to the listener. The price you pay is the unmistakable analogue hiss. It’s there, though the mind soon tunes it out as the music takes its hold. One must make allowances for the sometimes raw rasp on the brass and the suggestion of shrillness on the massed strings.
In the case of the Schumann one wonders whether this is the way Boult heard the symphonies during his years studying in Germany and closely watching the ways of Artur Nikisch.
The recordings are all stereo and in many cases this is the first time the stereo tapes have been issued in any format.
The fourfold card case neatly houses the booklet and 3 discs. A nice touch is the reproduction of the LP sleeves of the 1950s issues - 4 Schumann and 2 Berlioz.
Roll on a complete Nixa-Boult-Sibelius set and long may FHR’s licensing connection with EMI Classics continue.