WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Brahms: Orchestral Works / Boult, Et Al


Release Date: 11/21/2006 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 65229   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Dame Janet Baker
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic OrchestraJohn Alldis ChoirLondon Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 57 Mins. 

In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews



BRAHMS Academic Festival Overture . Serenades: No. 1 in D; No. 2 in A. Alto Rhapsody. 1 Tragic Overture. 2 Variations on a Theme by Haydn Adrian Boult, cond; Janet Baker (mez); 1 Hohn Alldis Ch; 1 London PO; London SO 2 Read more EMI 659229 (2 CDs: 117:06)


Having previously criticized EMI’s shameless recycling, reshuffling, and re-packaging of material already two and three times recycled, reshuffled, and re-packaged, I can here finally say that we have a winner in the bargain Classics series, and it is a three-Bs bonanza—I’m referring to Brahms, Boult, and Baker. But for four symphonies, four concertos, and a number of choral works with orchestra, it is really surprising how few miscellaneous orchestral items Brahms’s catalog contains; and here they all are, with Janet Baker’s glorious Alto Rhapsody thrown in to fill up a second disc that Brahms’s purely orchestral works alone can’t.


For over 60 years, Adrian Boult (1889–1983), knighted in 1937, was a fixture of the British musical landscape. In his interrupted then renewed associations with the City of Birmingham, BBC, London Philharmonic, and London Symphony orchestras, he remained a constant champion of the music of his compatriots—Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Holst, Parry, and others—but his repertoire was anything but provincial. Berlioz, Wagner, Brahms, Sibelius, Ravel, Busoni, and Mahler (even before the Mahler revival of the 1960s) were all heard under Boult’s baton, as were the British premieres of Schoenberg’s op. 31 Variations and Berg’s Wozzeck.


Boult, who had studied with and revered Arthur Nikisch, was always the gentleman’s gentleman—polite and self-effacing, articulate without being garrulous, and precise in both manner and speech without being prissy. His rehearsals were without tantrums—efficient, professional, and focused on the music’s architectural integrity. It was perhaps for these reasons that Boult never quite achieved the superstar status of other more charismatic podium firebrands. Audiences and critics alike acknowledged the solid preparation and finesse of his conducting, but rarely spoke in terms of bold or inspired performances.


Those assessments—not mine, but culled from various biographical sources and review notices of the time—are pretty much borne out by these recordings, which were made between 1970 and 1978. It is no bad thing, however, to say that Boult pays meticulous attention to the scores in front of him; we could do with more of such care today, and the beneficiary is Brahms. One hears the precision immediately in the bassoon articulations at the outset of the Academic Festival Overture , and indeed this rhythmic exactitude (the element of rhythm playing such a crucial role in Brahms’s music) carries through everything Boult does here. And while I would have to agree that none of these performances, but for one, are likely to be anyone’s top choice among so many outstanding contenders, as a collective whole that puts not a single foot wrong, this makes for an excellent “control” set of what Brahms actually wrote against which to measure the digressions of others.


The single standout exception is Janet Baker’s wrong-voiced but exquisitely and irresistibly beautiful Alto Rhapsody . I am a longtime Baker fan, and have always admired her purity of tone, perfection of pitch, precision of diction, and controlled vibrato. She brings all of these virtues to Brahms’s Alto Rhapsody , and the result is absolutely incandescent and mesmerizing. Baker’s timbre, however, is that of a mezzo-soprano or, stretching it a bit, that of a light alto. But what Brahms calls for in this piece, I’ve always believed, is a woman with an abundance of testosterone—a deep, dark contralto with hair on her chest tones. My first recording of the piece—and still a favorite—was Mildred Miller with Bruno Walter. But other classic voices have been Kathleen Ferrier and Lucia Valentini-Terrani who blew me away in 29:5. For the record, Baker recorded the Alto Rhapsody again in 1989 with Richard Hickox and the City of London Sinfonia, but she was in better voice in 1970 for Boult.


The recordings made in Abbey Road Studio No. 1—the two Serenades, the Alto Rhapsody , and the Haydn Variations —are a bit better acoustically balanced and more focused sounding than are the two overtures which were recorded in Kingsway Hall. Easily recommended as a supplement for collectors who already have all of this material in other versions, and especially recommended for those who are just beginning to build their libraries.


FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Academic Festival Overture in C minor, Op. 80 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880; Austria 
2.
Serenade no 1 in D major, Op. 11 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1857-1858; Germany 
3.
Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Dame Janet Baker (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  John Alldis Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1869; Austria 
4.
Tragic Overture, Op. 81 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880; Austria 
5.
Serenade no 2 in A major, Op. 16 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1858-1859; Germany 
6.
Variations in B flat major on a theme by Haydn, Op. 56a "St. Anthony" by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1873; Austria 

Sound Samples

Academic Festival Overture Op. 80 (1987 Digital Remaster)
Serenade No. 1 in D major Op. 11 (1995 Digital Remaster): I. Allegro molto
Serenade No. 1 in D major Op. 11 (1995 Digital Remaster): II. Scherzo (Allegro non troppo) & Trio (Poco più moto)
Serenade No. 1 in D major Op. 11 (1995 Digital Remaster): III. Adagio non troppo
Serenade No. 1 in D major Op. 11 (1995 Digital Remaster): IV. Menuetto I & II
Serenade No. 1 in D major Op. 11 (1995 Digital Remaster): V. Scherzo (Allegro)
Serenade No. 1 in D major Op. 11 (1995 Digital Remaster): VI. Rondo (Allegro)
Rhapsody Op. 53 (1988 Digital Remaster)
Tragic Overture Op. 81 (1988 Digital Remaster)
Serenade No. 2 in A Op. 16 (1995 Digital Remaster): I. Allegro moderato
Serenade No. 2 in A Op. 16 (1995 Digital Remaster): II. Scherzo (Vivace)
Serenade No. 2 in A Op. 16 (1995 Digital Remaster): III. Adagio non troppo
Serenade No. 2 in A Op. 16 (1995 Digital Remaster): IV. Quasi menuetto
Serenade No. 2 in A Op. 16 (1995 Digital Remaster): V. Rondo (Allegro)
Variations on a Theme by Haydn ('St Antoni Chorale') Op. 56a (1989 Digital Remaster): Thema: Chorale St. Antoni (Andante)
Variations on a Theme by Haydn ('St Antoni Chorale') Op. 56a (1989 Digital Remaster): Variation I: Poco più animato
Variations on a Theme by Haydn ('St Antoni Chorale') Op. 56a (1989 Digital Remaster): Variation II: Più vivace
Variations on a Theme by Haydn ('St Antoni Chorale') Op. 56a (1989 Digital Remaster): Variation III: Con moto
Variations on a Theme by Haydn ('St Antoni Chorale') Op. 56a (1989 Digital Remaster): Variation IV: Andante con moto
Variations on a Theme by Haydn ('St Antoni Chorale') Op. 56a (1989 Digital Remaster): Variation V: Vivace
Variations on a Theme by Haydn ('St Antoni Chorale') Op. 56a (1989 Digital Remaster): Variation VI: Vivace
Variations on a Theme by Haydn ('St Antoni Chorale') Op. 56a (1989 Digital Remaster): Variation VII: Grazioso
Variations on a Theme by Haydn ('St Antoni Chorale') Op. 56a (1989 Digital Remaster): Variation VIII: Presto non troppo
Variations on a Theme by Haydn ('St Antoni Chorale') Op. 56a (1989 Digital Remaster): Finale: Andante

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title
Review This Title Share on Facebook




YOU MUST BE A SUBSCRIBER TO LISTEN TO ARKIVMUSIC STREAMING.
TRY IT NOW FOR FREE!
Sign up now for two weeks of free access to the world's best classical music collection. Keep listening for only $19.95/month - thousands of classical albums for the price of one! Learn more about ArkivMusic Streaming
Aleady a subscriber? Sign In