Adrian Boult

Adrian Boult

Sir Adrian Cedric Boult CH (8 April 1889 – 22 February 1983) was an English conductor.


Boult was born in Chester and educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford. As a schoolboy, he was introduced to the world of music by a family friend, Frank Schuster, who was a friend of Edward Elgar and introduced the young Boult to the composer around 1905. ["Sir Adrian Boult at 80", "The Musical Times", 110(1514), pp. 367-368 (April 1969).]

He completed his musical education at the Leipzig Conservatory where he learnt to conduct by watching the eminent Hungarian conductor Arthur Nikisch. He sang in choral festivals and at the Leeds Festival of 1913, where he went to watch Nikisch conduct, and made the acquaintance of George Butterworth and other British composers.

During World War I he was employed at the War Office, and whilst there in 1918 planned a series of concerts with the London Symphony Orchestra, which included several important recent British works: Gustav Holst's "The Planets", of which he gave the first private performance, "A London Symphony" by Ralph Vaughan Williams, of which he gave the first performance of the revised version, and Elgar's "Symphony No. 2" which had fallen into neglect. Elgar wrote to him and said he felt sure the future of his music was safe in Boult's hands. In this way Boult laid the foundations for a long career as a champion of twentieth century English music. As one example, Vaughan Williams dedicated "Job, A Masque for Dancing" to Boult in the mid-1930s, several years after the actual première of the work.


Birmingham and the BBC

In 1924 Boult was appointed to the conductorship of the City of Birmingham Orchestra—now the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra—and in 1930 he was made Director of Music at the BBC and conductor of the BBC's Wireless Symphony Orchestra (which was renamed the BBC Symphony Orchestra), succeeding the BBC's first Director of Music Percy Pitt.

During the 1930s the BBC orchestra became renowned for its high standard of playing and for Boult's competent performances of new and unfamiliar music, often rehearsed in a very short time. Among these successes were an early performance of Arnold Schoenberg's "Variations, Op.31", the British première of Alban Berg's opera "Wozzeck" and the première of Vaughan Williams' Symphony No. 4 in F minor. [’My Own Trumpet’, p. 186/7] In 1933, Boult married Ann Wilson, the ex-wife of Steuart Wilson, tenor singer and administrator. The marriage lasted until Boult's death. Boult was knighted in 1937. [LondonGazette|issue=34375|startpage=1324|date=26 February 1937|accessdate=2007-12-30]

During World War II the BBC Symphony Orchestra was evacuated to Bristol, where it suffered from bombing, and to Bedford, where Boult strove to maintain standards and morale as many key players left. In these years he made recordings of Elgar's Second Symphony, Holst's "The Planets" and Vaughan Williams' "Job, A Masque for Dancing". After the war the start of the BBC Third Programme saw Boult involved in several pioneering ventures for Britain, including the British premières of Gustav Mahler's "Symphony No. 3" and the "Concerto for Orchestra" of Béla Bartók. [’My Own Trumpet’, p. 188]

In 1948 his love for English music and for pioneering took him to the Harringay Arena where he conducted brass bands and male voice choirs at the first "National Colliery Music Festival".

A little later in the same year, Steuart Wilson was appointed Director of Music at the BBC. Suggestions that the standard of playing had fallen beyond Boult's ability to rectify were taken as a reason to insist on his retirement at the age of 60 in 1949, an incident which remains controversial to this day. [Kennedy, ch 25] The Director General of the BBC at the time, Sir William Haley, later broadcast a tribute to Boult, acknowledging that he 'had listened to ill-judged advice in retiring him.' [Kennedy, p. 222] Later the BBC invited Boult to give a warm introduction to Arturo Toscanini's historic second broadcast concert with the Philharmonia Orchestra on 1 October 1952; the speech has been included in some releases of the broadcast. [Arturo Toscanini Society]

London Philharmonic

After it became clear that Boult would not be able to retain his position with the BBC Symphony, Thomas Russell, the Managing Director of the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO), offered Boult the position of Principal Conductor of the LPO in succession to Eduard van Beinum. In the 1930s under Thomas Beecham, the LPO had been the other crack London orchestra, but since Beecham's departure, was in need of rebuilding. Boult accepted this position and threw himself into this task. The results can be heard to this day in a long series of recordings beginning in 1950 and including in their early years a complete set of the Vaughan Williams symphonies and much Elgar. He obtained for the orchestra a recording contract with American companies and recorded Johannes Brahms symphonies, Hector Berlioz and Jean Sibelius, among other composers.

There was controversy and ambiguity over Boult's role in the dismissal of Thomas Russell from his position as the LPO Managing Director, in 1952, during the Cold War years, as Russell was an avowed member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. [Kennedy, ch 27] Boult served as the LPO's principal conductor until 1957. After the sudden resignation of Andrzej Panufnik from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), Boult returned as Principal Conductor of the CBSO for the 1959-1960 season. That was his last chief conductorship, though he remained closely associated with the LPO as its President until his retirement.

Boult recorded all seven then-existing symphonies by Vaughan Williams for Decca Records in 1953-54 with the LPO, with the composer present; these sessions included the Sea Symphony's first-ever recording. Decca also taped Vaughan Williams' short speech to the musicians following the recording of the Sixth symphony, and included it in the album. The composer was to have been present for the first recording of his Ninth symphony, for Everest Records in 1958, but he died the night before the session took place; Boult recorded a short introduction as a memorial tribute to Vaughan Williams. This recording has been reissued on CD.

Later years

After what Michael Kennedy described as a 'fallow' period in the early 1960s, Boult acquired the status of a revered figure in British music, and despite advancing years continued to conduct new works, being valued for his impartiality and reliability. [Edmund Rubbra, "Sir Adrian Boult (Born 8 April 1889)" (70th birthday tribute). "The Musical Times", 100(1394), 204 (1959).] He was guest conductor with UK orchestras and further afield (Vienna and Boston). In 1966 he resumed conducting for EMI and until his retirement enjoyed an 'Indian Summer', recording or re-recording his repertory in interpretations which have remained in the catalogues for thirty or forty years. He was made a Companion of Honour (CH) in the 1969 New Year Honours. [LondonGazette|issue=44740|supp=yes|startpage=24|date=20 December 1968|accessdate=2007-12-30] Having recorded much British music he was encouraged to record the orchestral music of Brahms, whose Third Symphony filled an extra recording session in August 1970 and sparked this exploration of the standard repertory, Richard Wagner, and Franz Schubert. This surprised those listeners who did not know that his acquaintance with these works dated back to the pre-1914 era when he had heard Nikisch and Karl Muck conduct them in Germany. His repertory in general was much wider than his late discography might indicate; not only did he conduct seven of the nine Mahler symphonies well before the Mahler revival of the 1960s, [The First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, Eighth and Ninth – Kennedy, p. 336] but he also frequently programmed Ravel's complete ballet Daphnis et Chloé and even Ferruccio Busoni's rarely-staged opera "Doktor Faust" in the late 1940s.

His last public performance was conducting Elgar's ballet "The Sanguine Fan" for London Festival Ballet at the Coliseum, in London on 24 June 1978. His final record, completed in December 1978, was of music by Hubert Parry. He formally retired from conducting in 1981. [Kennedy, pp. 287/8 and 294]


The Conservatoire in Birmingham, a department of the Birmingham City University (formerly known as the University of Central England), includes in its home building the "Adrian Boult Hall," a purpose built 500 seater recital hall, in a theatre style setting. It is primarily for classical concerts and recitals, and is occasionally used as a concert venue for jazz and world music. It opened in 1986 and was extensively refurbished in 2006. [Conservatoire website, January 2007 unverifiable|date=July 2007 ] unverifiable|date=July 2007


Boult was a prolific recording artist. Unlike many musicians, he felt at home in the recording studio and was happy working without an audience. [’My Own Trumpet’, p. 98] Most of the recordings below have been released on CD. Except where indicated, they are EMI recordings.

**English Dances Set I + II (LPO)

**Brandenburg Concertos 1-6 (LPO)

**Tintagel (LPO, mono) (Decca)
**Tintagel (LPO, stereo) (Lyrita)
**The Garden of Fand (LPO) (Lyrita)
**November Woods (LPO) (Lyrita)

**Violin Concerto (Josef Suk/New Philharmonia)
**Symphonies 5&6 (Philharmonic Promenade Orchestra) (Vanguard)

**Overtures (Philharmonic Promenade Orchestra) (Pye)

**Symphonies 1-4 (LPO/LSO)
**Serenades 1 & 2 (LPO)
**Alto Rhapsody (Janet Baker/LPO)

**Cello Concerto (Mstislav Rostropovich/Royal Philharmonic Orchestra)

**The Apostles
**Bavarian Dances
**Cello Concerto (Pablo Casals/BBC Symphony Orchestra) (Paul Tortelier/LPO)
**Dream Children
**The Dream of Gerontius
**Enigma Variations
**In the South
**Introduction and Allegro
**The Kingdom
**The Music Makers
**Pomp and Circumstance Marches
**The Sanguine Fan
**Symphony No 1 (LPO) (Lyrita (also later EMI))
**Symphony No 2 (LPO) (Lyrita (also later EMI))
**Violin Concerto (Alfredo Campoli/LPO) (Decca) (Yehudi Menuhin/NPO) (Ida Haendel/LPO)
**Wand of Youth Suites

**Symphony in D minor (‘London Orchestral Society Orchestra’ – mostly the Philharmonia under a pseudonym for contractual reasons) (Originally recorded for Reader's Digest)
**Symphonic Variations (Clifford Curzon/LPO) (Decca)

**Piano Concerto (Shura Cherkassky/LPO)

**Acis and Galatea (Peter Pears, Joan Sutherland/Philomusica Orchestra) (L'Oiseau Lyre/Decca)
**Messiah (Jennifer Vyvyan et al/LPO) (Decca)
**Messiah (Joan Sutherland et al/LSO) (Decca)

**Choral Symphony (LPO)
**Egdon Heath (LPO) (Decca)
**Japanese Suite (LPO) (Lyrita)
**Oriental Suite (LPO) (Lyrita)
**The Hymn of Jesus (BBC Symphony Orchestra & Chorus) (Decca)
**The Perfect Fool Ballet Music (LPO) (Decca)
**The Planets (five recordings between 1945 (BBC SO) and 1979 (LPO)

**The Overlanders (LPO) (Lyrita)
**Mai-Dun (LPO) (Lyrita)
**Piano Concerto (LPO) (Lyrita)

**Kindertotenlieder (Christa Ludwig/Philharmonia Orchestra)
**Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Kirsten Flagstad/Vienna Philharmonic) (Decca)
**Symphony No. 1 (LPO) (Everest)
**Symphony No. 3 (BBCSO) (Testament)
**Symphony (NPO) (Lyrita)
**Sinfonietta (LPO) (Lyrita)

**Piano Concertos K453 and K491 (André Previn/LSO)
**Piano Concertos K466 and K488 (Annie Fischer/Philharmonia)
**Symphony No 41 (Jupiter) (LPO)

**Blest Pair of Sirens (LPO)
**Symphonic Variations (LSO) (Lyrita)
**Symphony No 5 (LPO)

**Symphony No 2 (LPO) (Decca)

**Feste Romane/Rossiniana (Westminster)

**Symphony No. 7 (LPO) (Lyrita)

**Symphony No 9 (Great C major) (LPO)

**Piano Concerto (Shura Cherkassky/LPO)

**Romeo And Juliet/Hamlet (London Philharmonic Orchestra)(SOMERSET P-11600)

*Vaughan Williams
**Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis (mono Philharmonic Promenade Or., stereo VSOO (both Westminster); stereo LPO)
**Pilgrim’s Progress (John Noble etc all/LPO)
**Serenade to Music (16 soloists/LPO)
**Symphonies 1-9 (two cycles, mono (LPO) (Decca), and stereo (LPO/NPO)
**The Lark Ascending (Hugh Bean/NPO)
**The Wasps incidental music (LPO)

*Malcolm Williamson
**Organ Concerto (LPO) (Lyrita)


Boult was the author of two books on conducting, "Thoughts on Conducting" and "A handbook on the technique of conducting." A selection of his essays was published in the year of his death, as "Boult on Music: Words from a Lifetime's Communication." His autobiography, "My Own Trumpet" was published in 1973. He was also a frequent broadcaster, notable for his courteous, understated Edwardian style of speaking.

*cite book | last=Boult | first=Adrian | title=A handbook on the technique of conducting | edition=7th edition | location=Oxford | publisher=Hall | origyear=1920 | year=1951| oclc=155756343
*cite book | last=Boult | first=Adrian | title=Thoughts on Conducting | location=London | publisher=Phoenix House | year=1963 | oclc=892145
*cite book | last=Boult | first=Adrian | title=My Own Trumpet | location=London | publisher=Hamish Hamilton | year=1973 | isbn=0241024455
*cite book | last=Boult | first=Adrian | title=Boult on Music: Words from a Lifetime's Communication | location=London | publisher=Toccata Press | year=1983 | isbn=0907689035
*cite book | last=Kennedy | first=Michael | title=Adrian Boult | location=London | publisher=Hamish Hamilton | year=1987 | isbn=0333487524


External links

* [ Adrian Boult] at Bach Cantatas Website
* [ Birmingham Conservatoire website]
* [ Westminster School website]

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  • Adrian Boult — [Adrian Boult] (1889–1983) an English ↑conductor who worked with many orchestras, including the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (1924–30), the ↑BBC Symphony Orchestra (1931–50) and the ↑London Philharmonic Orchestra (195 …   Useful english dictionary

  • Adrian Boult — Sir Adrian Cedric Boult (8 de abril de 1889 22 de febrero de 1983) fue un director de orquesta británico. Contenido 1 Biografía 2 Carrera 2.1 Birmingham y la BBC …   Wikipedia Español

  • Adrian Boult — Sir Adrian Cedric Boult CH (* 8. April 1889 in Chester; † 22. Februar 1983 in London) war ein britischer Dirigent. Boult studierte an der Westminster School und in Oxford bei Hugh Allen. Er vervollkommnete seine Ausbildung am königlichen… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Adrian Boult — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Boult (homonymie). Sir Adrian Boult (né le 8 avril 1889 à Chester mort le 22 février 1983 à Londres) était un chef d orchestre britannique. Biographie Ses enregistrements des symphonies,… …   Wikipédia en Français

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  • Adrian Boult Hall — The Adrian Boult Hall is the main concert hall of the Birmingham Conservatoire in central Birmingham, England. It is named after the conductor Adrian Boult.Situated in the Birmingham Conservatoire main building in Paradise Circus, it is used for… …   Wikipedia

  • BOULT (A.) — Adrian BOULT 1889 1983 Chef d’orchestre de légende, Adrian Boult était l’exemple parfait du musicien britannique: somptueuses moustaches, gestique sobre et digne, amplifiée par des baguettes d’une longueur inhabituelle, style irréprochable… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Boult — ist der Name folgender Personen: Adrian Boult (1889 1983), englischer Dirigent Boult ist der Name folgender Ortschaften: Boult, Gemeinde im französischen Département Haute Saône; siehe Boult (Haute Saône) Boult aux Bois, Gemeinde im französischen …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Adrian — ist ein männlicher Vorname. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Herkunft und Bedeutung des Namens 2 Namenstag 3 Bekannte Namensträger 3.1 Vorname …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Boult — may refer to: *Adrian Boult, an English conductor*Boult, Haute Saône, a commune in the French region of Franche Comté …   Wikipedia

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