Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 3 (Boult)

Adrian Boult, 1933
An orchestral suite by Bach is hardly repertoire that one would associate with the great British conductor Sir Adrian Boult (1889-1983), but this recording, one of Boult's earliest with the BBC Symphony Orchestra (which he helped to found in 1930), is noteworthy for two reasons, both concerning the opening slow section of the Ouverture.  First, to my knowledge it's the only recording of a Bach orchestral suite made during the 78-rpm era to observe the repeat of the opening section.  Second, it's the earliest recording in which the "modern" practice of synchronizing the dotted rhythms (so that, for example, when eighth notes and sixteenth notes occur simultaneously in different parts, the rhythm adopted is that of the sixteenths) is heard.  Boult must have received coaching in this from Arnold Dolmetsch, for who else in England at that time would have known about it?  This practice became almost universal for Baroque music in the 1960s (and indeed there was a backlash against it starting in the 1980s, led by the American musicologist Frederick Neumann, and put into practice by Reinhard Goebel and his wonderful ensemble "Musica Antiqua Köln"), but it's rather startling to hear it in a 1933 recording.  Indeed the performance is very stylish and modern-sounding, and only the absence of any continuo instrument reminds one that it dates from eighty years ago:

Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068
Prelude from the Violin Partita, BWV 1006 (arr. Pick-Mangiagalli)
BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Adrian Boult
Recorded May 22-23, 1933
HMV DB 1963 through DB 1965, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 69.15 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 37.99 MB)


  1. As a matter of curiosity, what is the diameter of the label on this
    lovely Coloured Doggie? The illustration measures 8 cm, which is
    surely larger than life....

    Thanks for another enjoyable posting. Mike

  2. I blush to admit that I can't find a ruler to measure it with, but it's the standard size label for 78s of the late 30s and 40s, perhaps 3 inches or so.

    1. Such a goyim nakhes:- I have no 78s, and you have no ruler!

      In the above line
      I is 2.25"
      the e in have is 2.5"
      between 7 and 8 is 3"

      My memory tells me that pre-amalgamation DB and D series were about 2.5", post-a--- around 2".... I can recall seeing even
      smaller on very long sides. Thanks for enriching my life. Best
      wishes for 2014. Mike

    2. Found a ruler - the labels measure 3 inches (7.6 cm).

  3. Thanks Bryan for another great download. You know, every Boult/BBC recording from the 30's that I have heard is nothing less than satisfying. It was one fine orchestra that Boult helped create, and the records prove it.

    And thanks for the enlightening comments on the changes that were coming regarding Bach performances. Great stuff!

    1. Hey Bill, I agree about the Boult/BBC records, and think in general Boult is greatly underrated, except of course in British repertoire (where his gifts have always been recognized, and rightly so). He did a really fine set of Bach Brandenburgs with the LPO in '72.

      By the way, I see you're slated to do a piece for the next 78 Community newsletter - so am I!

    2. Yes, and I saw that you were writing on the Virtuoso Quartet. Great! (I'll be doing a short article on the Ganz/ St.Louis Symphony recordings)

    3. Well, I look forward to seeing that!

  4. Hello Bryan.
    Just wanted to comment and tell you what a great site this is! I work for a small classical music label and, we have just started digitizing some tapes from the 60s and it has been quite the experience.
    I hope you don't mind but, I shared your blog on our Facebook page. Other people need to know about it. Thank you for sharing this music.

    1. Thanks, Karen! I also have a YouTube channel, also called "shellackophile."