C1927. SIR ADRIAN BOULT Cond. London Phil.: Symphony #7 in C; VERNON HANDLEY Cond. New Philharmonia Orch.: Symphony #2 in D (both Rubbra). (U.K.) Lyrita 235, recorded 1970 & 1978. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 5020926023520
“Vernon Handley was a great musician who never quite achieved the fame he deserved - and, perhaps, so much desired.
I first got to know him when I was secretary of the Elgar Society London Branch and he gave a marvellous one-day course at Guildford in the early 1980s called ‘Elgar from the conductor’s point of view’ (though he quickly made it clear that it was really ‘Elgar from this conductor’s point-of-view’). This was a real tour-de-force for, although he had his programme worked out, and recorded illustrations all arranged in the correct order, to be managed by his assistant Alan Forrow of the Guildford Philharmonic Society, his own delivery appeared to be entirely spontaneous and without reference to notes. Comparisons of various recorded interpretations of Elgar’s music were involved, and how they matched (or didn’t match!) the printed score. He brought the house down, and had us eating out of his hand, by stating early on that he was not going to identify the conductors of the various excerpts, for ‘after all, some of these idiots are my friends’!
Tod had immense musical integrity, and for him - as with his mentor Sir Adrian Boult - the score was always the starting point, resulting in superb performances that reject the endless recycling of received opinions and get back to what is actually on the page, often with revelatory results. I remember a small but utterly illuminating moment in one of his brilliant talks to the Elgar Society, where he pointed out that at the words ‘The mind bold and independent’ (THE DREAM OF GERONTIUS, fig. 44), almost everybody, in recorded and live performances makes the note value of ‘The’ a semi-quaver, whereas it is actually a quaver. He was right – and the difference is actually very telling!
What also attracted me was of course the stick technique - an example of ‘real’ conducting rather than ‘waving yourself about’ in front of an orchestra. After the death of Rudolf Kempe in 1976 I had felt that there was no-one else who conducted properly any more, but Tod filled the gap, I think with a marvellous performance of Rakhmaninoff’s Second Symphony with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall, where I realized that beneath all those big romantic tunes so much was happening to give the music a whole new dimension of passion and excitement. I’ve always admired those successful disciples of Nikisch who could say so much with their sticks and so make the music more powerful and telling as a result. The art that conceals art.
It was also apparent that after so many of Tod’s performances, orchestras - jaded or played out, perhaps - seemed utterly invigorated, though it is for the members of those orchestras to say whether or not this is correct.
In the latter years he would often look terrible, and totter to the rostrum for rehearsals, concerts, or recordings but, as soon as the stick came down and the music began, the years would fall away and energy and inspiration would emanate from him. I remember the same experience at Sir Adrian Boult’s concerts towards the end of his career. He deserves to be remembered and honoured for his contributions to music in so many ways additional to his performances, live and on record.”
- Garry Humphreys, MusicWebInternational
“Just prior to the Second World War, Sir Adrian Boult (1889–1983) single-handedly built the BBC Symphony Orchestra into a world-renowned ensemble that attracted such artists as Arturo Toscanini, Serge Koussevitzky and Bruno Walter to conduct it. After retiring from the BBC S.O. in 1950, Boult became chief conductor of the London Philharmonic until 1957. He continued to guest conduct and record prolifically until 1978 and enjoyed an ‘Indian summer’ in the studio with both English music (Vaughan Williams and Elgar) and nineteenth-century German repertoire (Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Schubert and Wagner). His early studies at the Leipzig Conservatory with Max Reger and with the charismatic conductor Arthur Nikisch, who knew Brahms, gave Boult a unique understanding of this composer.
Boult’s period in Leipzig also brought him in touch with the music of Mendelssohn, who had founded the Conservatory as well as being appointed as conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra."
“Rubbra’s music seems to be quite conservative, lyric and straightforward, but demands full attention and doesn’t make good ‘easy listening’ because the continuity of melodic and polyphonic growth is logical and unremitting, the orchestration sometimes persistently thick. Often it’s difficult to speak of a ‘second subject’, because a second theme grows out of the first. Rubbra himself stated in a lecture given in Birmingham in April 1949: ‘Many believe that classical music is a nicely tabulated affair of first and second subjects, bridge passages, developments, recapitulations and codas and that formal perfection is achieved when all these ingredients are easily recognisable. But the point I would like to insist upon is that these features, whether obviously present or not, are in reality very secondary: that their importance is far below the importance of making contrasts between different facets of a pervading idea’. Rubbra’s religious belief shines through his music, so one may call him ‘the Bruckner of the 20th century’.”