While they may not be without flaws, these '70s performances of miscellaneous orchestral works by Brahms with Adrian Boult leading either the London Philharmonic or the London Symphony are still deep, honest, and true...and very, very musical. So while one may say with justification that, for example, the Second Serenade's central Adagio non troppo is a bit fast and its rhythms not quite precise or that the Haydn Variations' Grazioso is a tad awkward and its winds not quite balanced, one could not say with a clear conscience that Boult does not understand this music with every fiber of his being and does not express it with a naturalness and even a nobility that brooks no dispute. Listen to the joy of the outer movements of the First Serenade, the bliss of the outer movements of the Second Serenade, and, especially, the enormous heartbreak of the Tragic Overture. Nor could one say that the London musicians do not respond with respect and affection and that they do not perform with an energy and dedication that make the music glow with humanity. And one would never say that Janet Baker's performance of the Alto Rhapsody with Boult and the LPO is not one of the most moving recordings of the work ever made. In sum, anyone who loves Baker, Boult, or Brahms should hear these discs, especially in EMI's brilliantly restored stereo sound.
AllMusic Review by James Leonard
Track Listing - Disc 1
|Serenade for orchestra No. 1 in D major, Op. 11|
Track Listing - Disc 2
|Serenade for orchestra No. 2 in A major, Op. 16|
|Variations on a Theme of Haydn for orchestra in B flat major (St. Anthony Variations), Op. 56a|