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CD Review

The 1956 Nixa-Westminster Stereo Recordings

First Hand 6

Volume 1

  • William Walton: Symphony #1 in B Flat minor
  • Edward Elgar:
  • Falstaff - Symphonic Study in C minor, Op. 68
  • Symphony #2 in E Flat Major, Op. 63
  • Concert Overture "Cockaigne - In London Town", Op. 40
  • Benjamin Britten:
  • The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, Op. 34 (2 versions)
  • Four Sea Interludes, Op. 33a
  • Passacaglia, Op. 33b
  • Soirées musicales (Rossini Suite #1), Op. 9
  • Matinées musicales (Rossini Suite #2), Op. 24
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Adrian Boult
First Hand Recordings FHR06 3CDs 230m ADD
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This first volume of Boult's Nixa/Westminster treasure trove of recordings dating from 1956 shows the elegant English conductor in his prime conducting repertoire which was undoubtedly close to his heart. This third recording of Elgar's Second Symphony is to my mind the most satisfying of all set down by Boult with its superb sound and dashing finale which literally sweeps all before it.

The Walton symphony is something of a rarity although it was briefly available in the EMI Phoenixa range (First Hand Recordings should get hold of the Suppé overture recordings by Barbirolli and Boult as part of their next release perhaps). Boult finds much passion and afterglow in this fine work although one has to admit that Walton's own EMI version is slightly preferable but not much my much. The other Elgar recordings are also towering achievements especially Falstaff which again is probably the best Boult version available now – even trumping his legendary Decca mono recording (Testament).

The Britten "Four Sea Interludes" are vintage Boult as is the magical "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" here reproduced for the first time in stereo alongside the original mono version. I also found much sprightly enjoyment in the "Matinee Musicales" and the "Soireé Musicales" with Britten's deft arrangements of the original Rossini pieces coming across quite à la Ansermet (another superb recommendation on Decca/Eloquence).

FHR produce an admirably informative booklet together with rare period photographs featuring the production team of these legendary sessions headed by the indefatigable Kurt List. A true treasure trove of recordings which are a fine memorial to the unheralded greatness of Sir Adrian and the vintage mid-1950's London Philharmonic.

Copyright © 2011, Gerald Fenech

Trumpet