Thursday, 12 December 2013

A Concert of English Music on Decca (LXT2015)

A few days ago I featured an interesting Ace of Clubs record which had been released in 1963. Music from three earlier long-playing records was subsumed into this ‘Festival of English Music’. The two pieces by George Butterworth had been released some 8 years previously on Decca LXT 2015. This album was an exciting ‘concert’ that featured Sir Adrian Boult and the London Philharmonic Orchestra playing four well-regarded pieces on LP.  
The ‘concert’ opened with Arnold Bax’s well known tone-poem Tintagel. This was followed by the Butterworth pieces and the programme concluded with Gustav Holst’s The Perfect Fool –Ballet Suite, Op.39.
Interestingly, both Tintagel and The Perfect Fool had recently (April 1955) been released on Columbia 33SX1019 with George Weldon conducting the London Symphony Orchestra.  In 1946 Sir Malcolm Sargent had recorded the Holst ballet with the London Philharmonic Orchestra on Decca AK1561-2.  At this time, there was also a Eugene Goossens recording of A Shropshire Lad (G.DB 9792-3) and of Tintagel (HMV1619-20). These last three were 78rpm.
The Musical Times (July 1955) suggests that it is ‘good that Butterworth’s poems should have been preserved in such authoritative performances. The most important review of this Boult 1955 ‘concert’ is found in The Gramophone April 1955.  A.P. writes that ‘here is a very good performance of Tintagel, especially in its brass playing.’ He continues by noting that the Butterworth pieces had never been forgotten by Sir Adrian and welcomes their first appearance on LP.  The conductor excels with his interpretation of A Shropshire Lad’s haunting phrases.  He states that Boult gives a ‘crisp and sparkling performance of The Perfect Fool.
The reviewer compares Boult’s recording of Tintagel with that of George Weldon, but finds that there is ‘not much to choose between them: nor between the recordings, though perhaps the new one (Boult) is slightly better.’ Interestingly he proposes that Bax’s scoring ‘does not really record well.’  A.P. concludes his review by noting that the Holst sounds ‘incomparably better’ on both discs. However, he prefers the Decca ‘because the opening brass is not right on top of you, as it is in the Columbia disc. 
As a matter of interest at the present time there are 21 recordings of Tintagel, 27 of The Banks of Green Willow, 15 of A Shropshire Lad- Rhapsody and 20 of the Perfect Fool.
The next post in this series will look at Boult’s 1955 recording of Walton’s Portsmouth Point and Siesta.  

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