Sir Adrian Cedric Boult, CH (8 April 1889 – 22 February 1983) was an English conductor. Brought up in a prosperous mercantile family, he followed musical studies in England and at Leipzig, Germany, with early conducting work in London for the Royal Opera House and Sergei Diaghilev's ballet company. As Adrian Boult recalled, Victor Beigel much enjoyed the punning name of the road—Howley Place—well suited as a venue which “daily re-echoed” with the voluble sound of his pupils, straining to reach their most difficult notes. “His companion,” Boult noted, “was a charming American architect named Dickie Borie,” whose infectious wit enlivened the couple’s frequent parties and musicales. “It was always a pleasure to dine with them,” the musician recalled, and then sit in the garden, when “finally they would bring the dogs for a walk with us to the tube station at Warwick Avenue, with an occasional whiff of what they called ‘parfum de Venise’ as one passed the canal.”
Boult's first prominent post was conductor of the City of Birmingham Orchestra in 1924. When the British Broadcasting Corporation appointed him director of music in 1930, he established the BBC Symphony Orchestra and became its chief conductor. The orchestra set standards of excellence that were rivalled in Britain only by the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO), founded two years later. Forced to leave the BBC in 1950 on reaching retirement age, Boult took on the chief conductorship of the LPO. The orchestra had declined from its peak of the 1930s, but under his guidance its fortunes were revived. He retired as its chief conductor in 1957, and later accepted the post of president. Although in the latter part of his career he worked with other orchestras, including the London Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and his former orchestra, the BBC Symphony, it was the LPO with which he was primarily associated, conducting it in concerts and recordings until 1978, in what was widely called his "Indian Summer". Boult was known for his championing of British music. He gave the first performance of his friend Gustav Holst's The Planets, and introduced new works by, among others, Elgar, Bliss, Britten, Delius, Rootham, Tippett, Vaughan Williams and Walton. In his BBC years he introduced works by foreign composers, including Bartók, Berg, Stravinsky, Schoenberg and Webern. A modest man who disliked the limelight, Boult felt as comfortable in the recording studio as on the concert platform, making recordings throughout his career. From the mid-1960s until his retirement after his last sessions in 1978 he recorded extensively for EMI. As well as a series of recordings that have remained in the catalogue for three or four decades, Boult's legacy includes his influence on prominent conductors of later generations, including Colin Davis and Vernon Handley.
For many years, Boult had been a close friend of the tenor Steuart Wilson and his wife Ann, née Bowles. When, in the late 1920s, Wilson began to mistreat his wife, Boult took her side.[n 2] She divorced Wilson in 1931. In 1933, Boult astonished those who knew his notorious shyness with women by marrying her and becoming a much-loved stepfather to her four children; the marriage lasted for the rest of his life. The enmity it provoked in Wilson had repercussions in Boult's later career. The stigma attached to divorce in Britain in the 1930s affected Wilson's career but not Boult's: Wilson was barred from performing in English cathedrals at the Three Choirs Festival but Boult was invited to conduct the orchestra at Westminster Abbey for the coronation of George VI in 1937.
Boult was created a Knight Bachelor in 1937 and was created a Companion of Honour (CH) in 1969. He received the gold medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society in 1944 and the Harvard Glee Club medal (jointly with Vaughan Williams) in 1956. He received honorary degrees and fellowships from 13 universities and conservatoires. In 1951 he was invited to be the first president of the Elgar Society. In 1959 he was made president of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music. Boult's old school, Westminster, has a music centre named in his honour, and the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire included in its home building the Adrian Boult Hall. The hall was used for classical concerts, other musical performances, and conferences. The hall was demolished in June 2016 as part of a redevelopment project. In the June 2013 issue of Gramophone Boult was added to the magazine's Hall of Fame which recognises musicians who have made a lasting impact on the world of recorded classical music.
My published books:
BACK TO HOME PAGE