Boughton: Symphony No. 2 (Deirdre); Symphony No. 3

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Boughton
LABELS: Carlton BBC Radio Classics
WORKS: Symphony No. 2 (Deirdre); Symphony No. 3
PERFORMER: BBC Philharmonic/Edward Downes
CATALOGUE NO: 15656 91892 ADD
For all the scandal that his love affairs, three marriages and Communist views caused in Twenties England, and in spite of the incredible success of The Immortal Hour, which still holds the world record for consecutive performances of an opera (216 in London, 1922) the name of Rutland Boughton has not lived on in the public memory.

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But some continue to champion him, among them his biographer, the composer Michael Hurd, and the conductor Edward Downes who, as a young man, met Boughton at his Gloucestershire commune. In the Eighties Downes revived the Second and Third Symphonies, conducting the Second from an unpublished score; the analogue recordings made then, now skilfully remastered by Floating Earth, give Boughton as good a chance as any to regain recognition – though it seems a shame, when only two orchestral works by Boughton are currently available on CD, to have recorded one of them (Symphony No. 3) again.

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Like Elgar, whose symphonies often come to mind when listening to these two, Boughton uses a conservative harmonic palette. Imaginative orchestration, with particularly effective use of wind, was his strength, and the BBC Philharmonic performs with sensitivity. The Third Symphony, particularly its beautiful, Tchaikovskian Adagio con serenità, is a better work than the Deirdre Symphony, a Celtic ballet that never came off. Janet Banks