Friday, June 17, 2005

Classic misunderstandings - Mahler's Planets

Towards the end of my time at EMI Sir Adrian Boult made his final, and valedictory, recording of Gustav Holst's The Planets with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. It was difficult to work up much press enthusiasm for this recording. Back in 1979 the classical music industry was much as it is today. Hype ruled. The bright young things like Riccardo Muti were hypable, but the venerable and musically impeccable Sir Adrian wasn't.

Finally I managed to get a Canadian magazine which I won't name to agree to do an interview. The magazine sent along its London bureau reporter to the interview in Sir Adrian's North London mansion flat where the charming Lady Boult served tea. Sir Adrian was his usually urbane self, and for a ninety-year old was remarkable lucid. But he did lose his train of thought occasionally. He was telling the Canadian journalist how Holst invited him to conduct the first private performance of The Planets by the New Queen’s Hall Orchestra in 1918 saying...............

"It was very rare in those days to have the opportunity to conduct a full orchestra, so when Gustav asked me...." and at that point Sir Adrian tailed off as he lost the thread.

The reporter helpfully jumped in...."Sir Adrian, you were telling us about how Mahler invited you to do the first performance of The Planets."

Afterwards Sir Adrian sent me a charming letter, which I still have, saying that he hoped his contribution to the interview was up to scratch.....

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