Sir Adrian Boult made his reputation almost entirely as a conductor of English music, which was a good thing because the few records he made of "international" composers were almost invariably sloppy, or dull, or both. His Brahms was an exception, however. It was so good that EMI actually recorded a complete symphony cycle with him--alas out of print. This two-disc compilation, however, includes very good performances of the two serenades, the two overtures, and a couple of other works. Serenade No. 1, in particular, has a freshness and charm that makes it one of the very finest versions available. The recording sounds very fine too. --David Hurwitz
It's a great bargain to have both of Brahms's sunny Serenades on a two-fer with his two overtures and the moving Alto Rhapsody. Adrian Boult was always a clear-eyed, unsentimental conductor, but perhaps he goes too far here. I'd like to hear the Academic Festival Over. done with affection, not simply run through its paces. The serenades are better, in parts, because they benefit from a light, quick approach--too often they seem to be conducted with as much weight as the symphonies. But quite often Boult rus..