Schubert, Sibelius, Ravel & Bizet

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COMPOSERS: Ravel & Bizet,Schubert,Sibelius
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Adrian Boult
WORKS: Symphony No. 8 (Unfinished); Symphony No. 7
PERFORMER: Philharmonia Orchestra, RPO/Adrian Boult
Showmanship, flamboyance and any kind of self-advertisement were foreign to Boult’s personality, which is perhaps why he remains under-represented on CD and underrated by the wider public. In his day, he pioneered repertoire as varied as Berg’s Wozzeck, Schoenberg’s Variations and Busoni’s Doktor Faust, not to mention Bax, Vaughan Williams and many young British composers. This issue serves as a reminder of his stature and the quiet, natural dignity (not a quality much prized these days) that informed his music-making. The Bizet, Schubert and Ravel come from a 1964 Prom and the Sibelius from a Festival Hall concert given the preceding year. I remember hearing him conduct Daphnis in the early Fifties and being astonished by the slow tempo he took in ‘Lever du jour’ (as he does here in the Suite No. 2), but subsequently learnt that in the Twenties he had heard Ravel conduct it, whose tempo he naturally adopted. His account has a finely controlled sensuousness that is very persuasive. In the Unfinished, there is the unforced eloquence that distinguished his famous Great C major, and an appropriate lightness of touch and elegance in Bizet’s Jeux d’enfants. Anyone who remembers Boult’s set of the Sibelius tone poems from the Fifties will have high expectations of his Seventh Symphony and will not be disappointed. This is attentively shaped and finely paced. Robert Layton