Recorded in August 1970, this is Sir Adrian’s fourth and final studio recording (there’s an ICA DVD of him conducting it at a concert) of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Job: A Masque for Dancing (first-performed in 1931), one of the composer’s greatest works, which he dedicated, retrospectively, to Boult.
Benefitting from being taped in London’s Kingsway Hall, superbly vivid and dynamic – produced by Christopher Bishop, engineered by Michael Gray – the LP, ASD 2673, the Blake-adorned cover illustrated, was issued the following year. I’m not sure when I acquired it, but the music and this performance won me over to a degree that has informed every subsequent account (including Boult’s previous three), and there’s been some very good ones along the way.
Boult, then aged eighty-one, conducts with total authority and one senses the LSO of the day hanging on to his every gesture as he carved the air with his long baton. This performance glows with dedication – by turns atmospheric, expansive and fiery, laced with pastoral and tender beauty, as well as grandeur, drama and crushing climaxes, all brought together with Boult’s architectural sureness.
Listening again, from an excellent CD transfer included in an EMI box (5739242) of Boult’s VW recordings, I have no doubt as to the stature of the music and Boult’s comprehensive conducting of it, latched onto with alacrity by the LSO. Indeed, there was plenty of session time left for Boult to record Brahms’s Tragic Overture and Symphony 3, a cycle he would complete with the London Philharmonic.