C0243. SIR ADRIAN BOULT Cond. London Phil.: Northern Ballad #1, Mediterranean, The Garden of Fand, Tintagel & November Woods (all Bax). (U.K.) Lyrita 231, recorded 1968. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 5020926023124
“Boult's ensemble achieves a clarity of texture that makes his argument easy to follow. His tempo fluctuation is much more pronounced and he is more likely to push forward, only to draw back for Bax's big, swirling string melodies. He is also afforded the superior recorded sound.
‘Tintagel’ is probably Bax's most popular work, and the entry point to his oeuvre for many a listener. It was composed in a passionate blur after Bax and his mistress, the pianist Harriet Cohen, ran away to Cornwall in 1917. His own romantic situation, the dramatic Cornish coastline and the majestic ruins of Tintagel castle sparked resonances for Bax with his beloved Wagner's TRISTAN UND ISOLDE. This tone poem, part sea picture, part evocation of dimly remembered heraldry, was the intoxicating result.
Although he is not entirely scrupulous in his observance of tempo markings, Boult offers here the sort of performance that I would expect from Boulez, were he minded to conduct British music. There is a certain lack of emotional engagement, but the playing Boult gets from the orchestra, the balancing of parts and the textual clarity he achieves are a joy to hear.
It is in the last of the big three that Boult really demands collectors' attention. ‘November Woods’ was written not long after ‘Tintagel’ was first sketched out, but its mood is much darker. There are those who see this tone poem as Bax's comment on the Great War. The musical allusions in the score pointed out by Lewis Foreman in his excellent liner notes certainly seem to support this view. Boult's performance of ‘November Woods’ is the most brooding and atmospheric I have heard….Boult is much darker and he elicits fabulous playing from the London Philharmonic. There is no trace of routine here, and the brass and whooping horns are magnificent.
Bax wrote three ‘Northern Ballads’ but, for reasons that are lost on me, none has really gained much currency. The first of them opens this disc. The sound-world of the music is immediately Baxian, but the orchestral textures are leaner and the colouring more precise than in the earlier works. This tightly constructed work is clearly informed by Bax's experience as a symphonist. There is more Sibelius than Debussy in the mix this time and the thematic material has a pronounced Scotch snap. This performance features stellar contributions from the brass – trombones in particular. In fact, the whole orchestra sounds brilliant here and Boult shapes the music with mastery.
As hinted above, this disc is wonderfully recorded, and that alone may be reason enough to justify purchasing this disc. Bax's orchestral textures tend to be thick, and an over-reverberant acoustic or unhelpful recording balance can make even the most committed performance sound turgid. Not so here with every instrumental line cleanly caught.”
- Tim Perry, musicweb-international