C0152. BOYD NEEL, CHARLES GROVES & MALCOLM SARGENT Cond. National S.O.: Elgar Program. (England) Dutton CDK 1203, recorded 1945-46, (incl. Neel’s Unpublished ‘In the South’). Transfers by Michael J. Dutton. Final Copy! - 763587120324
“As I listened to the opening bars of this magnificent performance of Elgar’s ‘In the South’, I was continually asking myself why did Decca leave this true Elgarian testament unissued for over five decades. There is a certain ebullient warmth about Boyd Neel’s bold and romantic performance that eluded those before and after him, excepting perhaps those historic records the composer himself made. I make no bones about this, ALASSIO is my favorite Elgarian work, and nothing written from that majestic pen comes so close to the Mediterranean warmth and joie de vivre that positively implodes the score.
Decca’s fabled FFRR engineering was at the forefront and one can imagine the hit this recording would have made with its life-breathing violin playing and the various woodwind instrument solos permeating the vast Italian canvas.
Here the various passages of the work are fused together with a remarkable sense of elan and most of all, a humanity that eludes most conductors. There is no need to make any excuses for the sound, as I said earlier this is sensational Decca at its brilliant best.
Boyd Neel’s ‘Chansons’ are earlier September 1945 recordings, and in them one can feel the authentic touch that the String Orchestra was able to give to British music. In fact, the soft and silky sweet nature of this salon music has rarely sounded better.
Dutton have chosen to end the compilation with an early, rare pressing of the young Sir Charles Groves in two songs from ‘The Starlight Express’. Henry Cummings clearly enunciated and deeply felt renderings are given sympathetic accompaniments by this much missed character who was to imprint such a firm name on Elgar’s music in the years to come.
A treasure trove of a disc, with it’s authentic front cover featuring one of those long lost Decca 78’s and as usual, superbly remastered by Michael Dutton. I still hear those magnificent bars of ‘In the South’ ringing in my ears!”
- Gerald Fenech
“Malcolm Sargent was an English conductor, organist and composer widely regarded as Britain's leading conductor of choral works. The musical ensembles with which he was associated included the Ballets Russes, the Huddersfield Choral Society, the Royal Choral Society, the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, and the London Philharmonic, Hallé, Liverpool Philharmonic, BBC Symphony and Royal Philharmonic orchestras. Sargent was held in high esteem by choirs and instrumental soloists, but because of his high standards and a statement that he made in a 1936 interview disputing musicians' rights to tenure, his relationship with orchestral players was often uneasy. Despite this, he was co-founder of the London Philharmonic, was the first conductor of the Liverpool Philharmonic as a full-time ensemble, and played an important part in saving the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from disbandment in the 1960s.
As chief conductor of London's internationally famous summer music festival the Proms from 1948 to 1967, Sargent was one of the best-known English conductors. When he took over the Proms from their founder, Sir Henry Wood, he and two assistants conducted the two-month season between them. By the time he died, he was assisted by a large international roster of guest conductors.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Sargent turned down an offer of a major musical directorship in Australia and returned to the UK to bring music to as many people as possible as his contribution to national morale. His fame extended beyond the concert hall: to the British public, he was a familiar broadcaster in BBC radio talk shows, and generations of Gilbert and Sullivan devotees have known his recordings of the most popular Savoy Operas. He toured widely throughout the world and was noted for his skill as a conductor, his championship of British composers, and his debonair appearance, which won him the nickname ‘Flash Harry’.
Toscanini, Beecham and many others regarded Sargent as the finest choral conductor in the world. Even orchestral musicians gave him credit: the principal violist of the BBC Symphony Orchestra wrote of him, ‘He is able to instil into the singers a life and efficiency they never dreamed of’.”