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Stephen Johnson
BBC Music Magazine, May 2018

Boult’s handling of the Prelude, and his masterly accompaniment—especially to Janet Baker’s radiant final benediction—is so beautiful, so magisterial in its intensity, that it feels as though the score is simply being opened before us, its truths unclouded by any merely human ‘interpretation'…

The accompanying documentary is excellent: full of fascinating, moving insights into Boult as man and conductor. In the film we see the wonderfully clear beat, his commanding use of that enormous baton, but we also see how much he communicated with his eyes. © 2018 BBC Music Magazine  Read complete review




James A. Altena
Fanfare, November 2017

…the landmark 1968 television broadcast of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius, with the dream cast of Janet Baker, Peter Pears, and John Shirley-Quirk under Adrian Boult, has finally made its way to DVD, coupled with a documentary of Boult’s life and career that is about the best exemplar of that genre I’ve ever seen. Both are quite extraordinary, and the Elgar supremely moving. © 2017 Fanfare Read complete review



Charles H Parsons
American Record Guide, July 2017

Dame Janet Baker (the Angel) has arrived at complete artistic maturity. Hers is another unique voice. Is it any wonder that Benjamin Britten chose to work with these artists and compose music specifically for them? Baker’s voice is redolent of incense, color, and passion.

The London Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra had often performed under Boult’s direction. The music itself is deeply ingrained in all English musicians. © 2017 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide



Mark Sealey
Classical Net, May 2017

The singing of the three soloists is (understandably) fresh and keen. The delivery and projection of each is in its way majestic and commanding. Pears’ approach draws in calm and the deep satisfaction that surely Newman wished to convey a Christian’s death should lead to. Despite being perhaps the weakest of the three performances, it’s nevertheless a stunningly convincing one. Shirley-Quirk, who is both the Priest and Angel of the Agony, suggests an authority which is accepted by Gerontius because of its compassion and restraint. Baker’s Angel is tending, understanding, supporting—but without conveying either the maternal, nor the peremptory. She is performing rather than drawing on the dramatic. And is thus less declamatory than her two male counterparts. At the same time, her extreme sensitivity and gentleness form a winning combination. © 2017 Classical Net Read complete review



James A. Altena
Fanfare, May 2017

Any detailed description of the contributions here by Baker and Shirley-Quirk would be completely superfluous; during their contemporaneous careers they owned their respective roles in this work, and they are simply exquisite beyond description. The real surprise for me was Peter Pears, whom I have always regarded as an overrated quantity that owed his fame and fortune solely to his association with Britten. …Here his voice is genuinely beautiful—rock-steady, plangent, and soaring—and his shaping of the text unerringly poetic. As an interpreter he is absolutely riveting; despite this being a film production with no audience, he lives his role as if he were on stage. …Boult’s conducting is utterly masterful; I have never heard the Prelude to Part I shaped so logically and compellingly. The orchestra and chorus sing and play with tremendous fervor, though the reverberant recording venue makes the latter’s diction somewhat indistinct.

The second disc provides ones of the best music documentaries I’ve ever seen: a overview of the career of Adrian Boult, narrated by Vernon Handley. Well laid out, it focuses mostly upon his career with the BBC Symphony, up to his abrupt and politically engineered dismissal at age 60, with his subsequent career with the London Philharmonic presented mostly via recordings.

Both the audio and visual quality are quite good for their time and circumstances. …highest possible recommendation. © 2017 Fanfare Read complete review



John Quinn
MusicWeb International, January 2017

…Boult leads an admirable, authoritative performance.

Pears was a controversial interpreter of Gerontius for many people but I must say I’ve always found a good deal to admire in his contribution to the 1972 Britten recording. …Overall, I was drawn in by Pears’ performance. © 2017 MusicWeb International Read complete review




Edward Seckerson
Gramophone, December 2016

For those who have an issue with the distinctive Pears sound (with all its inherent ‘Englishness’) I can only say that you need to put that aside and focus instead on the sheer intensity and open-heartedness of the singing, the judicious weighting of words and innate sense of the music’s beauty and line. Then there is the ‘illuminated’ quality of his head-voice, so exquisite in the prayerful hushed reprise of ‘Sanctus fortis’, and contrasting so dramatically with the thrillingly full-blooded release of ‘In thine own agony’. He is, in a word, magnificent.

John Shirley-Quirk is marvellous, too, in both his roles, and Janet Baker, inhabiting the Angel as only she could, is in a league of her own. The radiance and amplitude of tone, the transcendent response to words, the key moments of ecstasy like the final ‘Alleluia’ (never better)—you can hear how her performance has marinated in the four years since her famous Barbirolli recording. © 2016 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone




Andrew Achenbach
Classicalsource.com, November 2016

…Boult draws a splendidly alert response from his massed LPO forces, his conception marvellously unforced, noble and purposeful… it’s a deeply nourishing experience overall, with excellently clean picture quality and commendably full-bodied sonics.

This is, quite simply, an issue to cherish. © 2016 Classicalsource.com Read complete review





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