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 20th-century English music. As one example, Vaughan Williams dedicated Job, A Masque for Dancing to Boult in the mid-1930's, several years after the actual premiere of the work. In 1920 Boult was appointed to the conductorship of the City of Birmingham Orchestra (later the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra) and in 1930 he was made Director of Music at the BBC. When the BBC formed a symphony orchestra, Boult also became its chief conductor, combining both jobs in typically tireless fashion. During the 1930s he became famous for the high standard of playing in the orchestra, and for his capable performances of new and unfamiliar music, often rehearsed in a very short time.
Among these successes were the British premieres of Arnold Schönberg's Variations, Op.31, Alban Berg's opera Wozzeck and Vaughan Williams' Symphony No. 4 in F minor. 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. 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 memorable 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 premiere of Gustav Mahler's Third symphony and an early performance of the Fifth. In 1948, 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.
After it became clear that Boult would not be able to retain his position with the BBC Symphony, Boult accepted the conductorship of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, which in the 1930s under Beecham had been the other crack London orchestra, but since Beecham's departure, was in need of rebuilding. Boult 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, Managing Director of the London Philharmonic Orchestra until 1952, during the Cold War years, as Russell was an avowed member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. 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. Boult never held a permanent conducting post after that. Boult was now a highly revered figure in British music, and despite advancing years continued to conduct new works, being valued for his impartiality and reliability.
In 1966 he resumed conducting for EMI and until his death enjoyed an "Indian Summer", recording or re-recording his repertory in interpretations which continue to be prized as exemplary. For example, 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 many 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 several Mahler symphonies well before the Mahler revival of the 1960s, but he also frequently programmed Maurice Ravel's complete ballet Daphnis et Chloé and even Ferruccio Busoni's rarely-staged opera Doktor Faust in the late 1940s. His final record was, however, a disc of premiere recordings of music by Hubert Parry. Boult was the author of two books on conducting, and a selection of his essays was published after his death.
He was also a frequent broadcaster, notable for his courteous, understated Edwardian style of speaking. During his final years he was reverently known as 'The Old Man' and his conducting style became almost imperceptible, his long baton the only thing that moved. His final performance was conducting Elgar's ballet The Sanguine Fan for English National Opera at the Coliseum, in London. He formally retired from conducting in 1981. Michael Kennedy has written a biography of Boult. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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|Elgar: Variations On An Original Theme, Op. 36, "Enigma" - Nimrod|
|Elgar: Enigma Variations, Op. 36 - Nimrod|
|Prelude De L'Acte 3/Parsifal Remast|