Brahms and Elgar rub shoulders

Brahms and Elgar find themselves together on a single volume by Adrian Boult.

Composers: Brahms, Elgar
Repertoire: Symphony No.1 (Brahms); Enigma Variations (Elgar)
Artists: Adrian Boult
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Orchestral
Label: ICA Classics ICAC5019 

The Music: 
Tension, violence, tenderness, joy and even pastoral-like moments rub shoulders in Brahms’s multi-faceted First Symphony, as tragedy and peace jostle for supremacy. It’s a fabulous partner to Elgar’s enduringly popular Enigma Variations, not least because Boult was a respected interpreter of both composers. This disc carries the additional treat of an 85th birthday interview with him. 

The Performance: 
These performances would surpass all superlatives under any circumstance, but what makes them especially incredible is that, despite Boult being in his nineties, they sound like the interpretations of a young man. Given that the Brahms in particular was one of the works Boult studied closely in 1912 as a student in Leipzig, perhaps it’s no wonder. Whatever the reason, he’s on fire with it. Taken at a faster-than-average tempo, it’s incisive, exciting, alive with forward momentum, and with a real sense of the musical story to be told. The tingle-factor moments in this, and indeed the Elgar, just keep coming.

The Verdict: 
Many recordings have been released since these first appeared, and
 yet one would be hard-pushed to name any that can truly top them. They’re proof, if any were needed, that sometimes the oldies are the best.

Want More?
 Another top Boult reissue has him conducting the London Philharmonic orchestra in Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ and Mozart’s ‘Jupiter’ symphonies (Medici Masters, MM 019-2).