Sir Adrian Boult


Sir Adrian Boult ( 1889-1983) is one of the greatest figures in 20th century music. He studied at the Leipzig Conservatory, then in 1914 he joined the music staff at Covent Garden. In 1918 Holst asked him to conduct the first performance of The Planets, at a privately organized concert in Queen’s Hall, London. In 1919 he joined the teaching staff of the RCM (where he remained until 1930). He worked with the Ballet Russe, British National Opera Company, Royal Opera House and regional opera companies.

From 1928 to 1931 he was musical director of the Bach Choir, and was also appointed as conductor of the Birmingham Festival Choral Society, and subsequently as musical director of the City of Birmingham Orchestra where he remained until 1930. In 1930 Boult was appointed music director for the BBC and asked to form a new orchestra. He secured the best players and for the next decade largely met his goal of setting the standard for English orchestras. He was associate conductor of the Proms from 1942 to 1950. He immediately joined the LPO as music director toured both West Germany and the Soviet Union.

In 1957 Sir Adrian “retired”, but continued to make many appearances. He went back to the CBSO in 1959–60 and returned to the RCM to teach from 1962 to 1966. Boult championed British music, giving première and repeat performances, and celebrated recordings, of works by Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Bax, Walton, Holst, Delius, Tippett and others. In his BBC days he had also introduced much new music to London, with concert performances of Berg’s Wozzeck (1934) and Busoni’s Doktor Faust (1937), and works by Bartók, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Webern and American composers. Adrian Boult was knighted for his services to music in 1937 and received many other honours. He was almost 90 when he made his final public appearance and his final recording (of music by Parry) in 1978.