Adrian Boult

Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony; Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

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Adrian Boult's 1952 Decca recording of Ralph Vaughan Williams' A London Symphony remained the standard version until 1971, when he revisited it with the London Philharmonic Orchestra on EMI; it is this latter rendition that has been a mainstay of the catalog, while the earlier mono recording has been relegated to sporadic reissues on small labels. Even so, this performance, along with the 1975 reading of the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, is a classic in its own right, against which other performances are often measured, for Boult's sympathetic understanding of Vaughan Williams' music, character, and culture is perhaps unmatchable; even though other conductors have turned in exceptional performances of this evocative pre-World War I work, they have still generally followed Boult's lead. Of course, this is the finalized edition of the work, which was published in 1936 by Eulenburg, to be distinguished from the original 1913 version that Richard Hickox brilliantly recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra for Chandos, but that may be held in a class by itself since that is the only recording. The tighter, shorter edition of A London Symphony is expertly conducted by Boult and resolutely played by the LPO, who bring across all the atmospheric orchestration, inventive colors, and special "London sounds" that made this piece an enduring favorite, especially among English audiences. The performance of the Fantasia is lush and shimmering, and the string orchestra is warmly reproduced in the transfer.

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