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Ronald E. Grames
Fanfare, January 2012

No admirer of this conductor or student of the conductor’s art will want to be without this marvelous release. The sound is good, yielding little to the cavernous space of Royal Albert Hall. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare

John Quinn
MusicWeb International, November 2011

This Brahms symphony performance, given at the Proms in 1976, finds Boult in very fine form and he gets an excellent performance from the BBC orchestra. What impressed me throughout was the sheer vitality of Boult’s interpretation.

These are fine, wise performances, which act as welcome supplements to Sir Adrian’s studio versions of these works. Even if you have those recordings this CD is well worth your attention for the frisson of a live occasion is definitely present. The recordings have come up pretty well and there’s a characteristically good note by Boult’s biographer, Michael Kennedy. Read complete review

John P McKelvey
American Record Guide, September 2011

The Elgar Enigma is a different story altogether. It is much more concise and tightly organized than the soggy Brahms. The tempos vary obviously from one episode to another, but are appropriate in all events. The recorded sound is brighter and more detailed than in the Brahms. Finally, the sound is enhanced by the pedal notes of the organ—played by G Thalben Ball—which contribute mightily to a thunderous conclusion, particularly if you employ a good subwoofer. I really can’t think of a more thrilling performance. In the end, this release earns its price on the merits of the Elgar alone.

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Gramophone, September 2011

BRAHMS, J.: Symphony No. 1 / ELGAR, E.: Enigma Variations (BBC Symphony, Boult) (1971, 1976) ICAC5019
MAHLER, G.: Symphony No. 3 / DEBUSSY, C.: La mer (West, Cologne Radio Chorus and Symphony Orchestra, Mitropoulos) (1960) ICAC5021
BRAHMS, J.: Symphony No. 3 / TCHAIKOVSKY, P.I.: Symphony No. 6, “Pathetique” (Novaya Rossiya State Symphony, Bashmet) ICAC5023

ICA Classics continues to honour some of the great masters of the baton with impressive and well-transferred releases, most of them first-time releases. A smooth-sounding edition of Mahler’s Third with the Cologne Radio Symphony under Dimitri Mitropoulos just about pips rival transfers to the post (radio mastertapes have been used) and the coupling is a craggy, storm-tossed Cologne account of Debussy’s La mer which, like the Mahler, is from the tail-end of the conductor’s life (October 1960). This is pure “Turner-in-sound”, especially the closing “Dialogue of the Wind and the Sea”, which, to my mind at least, is as close to a Furtwängler La mer as we’re ever likely to get—unless one actually turns up! Brahms’s First with the BBC Symphony under Adrian Boult in 1976 is rather more temperate: straight-backed, admirably clear, rhythmically supple and with its big first-movement exposition repeat intact. A good recording, too, just as it is for a 1971 BBC SO Elgar Enigma Variations, where cleanly separated violin desks help balance the sound-picture. The well-known organist in the Elgar is George Thalben-Ball and, although I couldn’t in all honesty pretend that either performance is Boult’s most imposing on disc, both are well worth acquiring.

But the real surprise in this latest ICA Classics batch comes from viola player (as he’s principally known) Yuri Bashmet and the Novaya Rossiya State Symphony Orchestra—live recordings of Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony (2004) and Brahms’s Third (2005). Here everything holds the attention, whether in the sensitive phrase-shaping and careful balancing of the Brahms, or the searing intensity of Tchaikovsky’s Sixth (a hairraisingly fast march-scherzo followed by a gentle but very slow opening to the finale). The Allegro con grazia second movement is both swift and uncommonly delicate, and everywhere you sense an alert rostrum presence approaching the music afresh. Of the many instrumentaliststurned-conductors who have arrived on the scene in recent years, I’d say that Bashmet has to be among the most original. I look forward to hearing more rostrum work from him, much more.

Colin Anderson, June 2011

Among Sir Adrian Boult’s greatest commercial recordings is his 1973 account with the London Philharmonic of Brahms’s First Symphony for EMI, a performance of sheer rightness and deep satisfaction. From a few years later, from the BBC Proms, is this similarly magnificent version caught on the wing before a packed Royal Albert Hall, the 87-year-old Boult commanding a fiery, incisive, lyrically-affecting and passionate response from the BBC Symphony Orchestra. This was at a time when Boult tended to conduct parts of concerts; on this occasion he also led Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, the programme opening with Berg’s Chamber Concerto conducted by John Carewe with György Pauk and Paul Crossley as respectively the violin and piano soloists.

Not that any allowance need be made for Boult’s age, for this Brahms 1 hits the ground running, the slow introduction enveloping the listener as a mighty emotional outpouring. If the start of the exposition is just a little sluggish in relation to the free-flowing opening, it soon finds its energised feet and with the observance of the repeat the work is pursuing a high-voltage course that will be sustained to a triumphal close and the roar of the audience’s approval. The slow movement is shot-through with feeling, the intermezzo-like third has an amiable gait and the finale is superbly wrought in its sense of direction and culmination to complete a traversal of conviction, excellence and rejuvenating powers. It’s as if Boult (1889–1983) took the view that this might be the last time he would conduct this music, for not only is there a palpable lifetime’s experience in his direction and understanding, he also seems to pour his entire being into it and takes the BBCSO with him for a glorious farewell.

Unfortunately the Elgar is not so consistently inspiring, a rather humdrum performance at times taken from a concert to mark the centenary of the Royal Albert Hall, the playing not without scrappiness and also less than assured, almost as if Boult was willing to take too much for granted or was simply below par on the night. There’s no doubting his assured shaping of the whole, but inspiration is in fits and starts if not without affecting moments: ‘Nimrod’ is very moving in its veracity, and as the score progresses one becomes aware of a more-involved Boult and a more-responsive BBCSO. The close of the work includes the ad lib organ part with a leading player of his generation, George Thalben Ball (1896-1987), who had played a Handel organ concerto earlier in the evening—and who would be knighted in 1982 and which presumably explains the lack of a ‘Sir’ in ICA’s presentation—returns to the RAH’s organ console and its 9,999 pipes and numerous buttons and pedals to release a subterranean growling presence and cathedral-like amplitude without dominating the orchestra. It’s rather wonderful and here Boult is significantly expansive and expressively outgoing.

The recording quality (stereo) for both works is more than acceptable (the high and wide vistas of the RAH faithfully captured) and has been very well re-mastered. The Brahms is the thing—it’s tremendous and alone worth the price of admission—the disc being completed by some wise words (three minutes’ worth) from Boult, interviewed at the time of his 85th-birthday, regarding how best to find the right tempo.

Brian Wilson Download Roundup
MusicWeb International, June 2011

Of the three great Bs who introduced me to much of the classical music repertoire, Beecham, Boult and Barbirolli, I’m beginning to realise how important Boult was in the pantheon. These rather topless BBC recordings from the 1970s may not present him in the best sonic light—perhaps that’s why we haven’t had them released on the BBC Classics label—but the performances were well worth preserving.

In typical Boult fashion, his Brahms steers a middle course, which sounds unadventurous or even boring in print, yet is anything but in practice. The ‘big’ tune in the finale is just right—with enough emotional weight, but never allowed to linger too long—and by this stage the recording seems to have brightened somewhat…

The Enigma post-dates Boult’s fourth (?) and last studio recording of 1970…and makes a fascinating comparison with the Beulah reissue of his 1936 version. Some reviewers found problems with both his 1960s World Record Club (later Classics for Pleasure) and 1970 versions, but few, I think, will fail to yield to this ICA recording. Even the sound is better here than in the Brahms, though it dates from earlier. The overall tempo had slowed over the years but Boult remained a firm hand in Elgar, even in the versions of the symphonies which he recorded in the 1970s for Lyrita (SRCD221)—not his best, I think, but that’s a personal and comparative view based on what he really could and did achieve.

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