My reputation is safe in your hands
Today's Lebrecht-style attack by Sakari Oramo - or was it his orchestra's spin-doctor? - on Sir Adrian Boult cannot pass unremarked. In the Guardian Oramo writes about the 'stoic stodginess' of Boult's Elgar. This is a surprising comment from the current principal conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra as Sir Adrian Boult was both chief conductor of the orchestra from 1924 to 1930 and an acclaimed interpreter of Elgar's music. After a 1920 performance of the Second Symphony conducted by Boult the composer wrote to him saying: 'I feel that my reputation in the future is safe in your hands. It was a wonderful series of sounds. Bless you!'
I have not had the pleasure of hearing Sakari Oramo's performances of Elgar, but I am sure they are very fine. But I can assure him that I heard many live performances of Elgar conducted by Boult and 'stoic stodginess' are the last words I would use to describe them. But then I don't think Oramo would know about his live performances. The last time Sir Adrian conducted in the concert hall was on October 12 1977, when Oramo was 12.
After his last concert appearance in London Sir Adrian conducted several more ballet performances of Elgar's music (The Sanguine Fan and Enigma Variations). He also continued to record, and on December 20 1978 completed the sessions at EMI's Abbey Road Studios for an LP of Sir Hubert Parry's Symphonic Variations, Fifth Symphony and Lament for Brahms. We knew this was to be the last ever recording session for the 89 year-old conductor, and he kindly signed and dated my copy of his autobiography, seen above, after the session on that historic day.
Sir Adrian Boult was both a wonderful musican and one of the greatest-ever interpreters of Elgar's music. He was a conductor who built his reputation in the concert hall and on record, not by making silly comments in newspaper articles.
Now read an exclusive on the mystery of Elgar's Violin Concerto.
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