William Boughton interview on ABC-TV’s Connecticut (USA) affiliate, News Channel 8

What the Music & Mainstream Media Are Saying

 “William Boughton’s leadership of the ESO leaves no doubt about the quality of the orchestra which is essentially his construction. This recording (Mendelssohn String Symphonies) is persuasive in ways it is seldom given to first recordings to be. Strongly recommend.”

Fanfare, USA

“This recording is both technically first-rate and generous, the orchestra is superb and Boughton brings an infectious enthusiasm to the proceedings.”

Fanfare, USA

“… And the ESO under William Boughton (Nimbus Records) offers performances which are superior in every respect…”

Gramophone, UK

“Since founding the ESO over 10 years ago, Boughton has made musical Anglophiles everywhere happy with an ever growing record catalogue of English string music. But his appearance last night at the Walnut Theatre with the Concerto Soloists of Philadelphia revealed a conductor who can handle a stylistically diverse repertoire with considerable sophistication and sensitivity. He was especially impressive in bringing off the work’s (Shostakovich Chamber Symphony) capricious tempo and dynamic changes, and handled moves from major to minor with grace…”

Philadelphia Inquirer, USA

“The tragic gloom of the first movement, the bitter sweet melancholy of the second and the masterful grasp of the menuet were brought out impressively. One was tempted to think ‘So must Mozart have intended it to be’… (Mozart – Jupiter Symphony). Here also (Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Ballet) the orchestra convinced with its flexibility, its speed of reaction and its very beautiful balanced registers…”

Berner Oberlander, Switzerland

“The concert came to a triumphant conclusion with one of Beethoven’s most enjoyable symphonies – No 4 in Bb. This was a quite impressive performance, Boughton choosing the right speed to convey the majestic vastness of the great introductory Adagio; the subsequent Allegro had plenty of the necessary drive and sparkle; the beautiful slow movement was nicely poised and was followed by a scherzo full of high spirits and a final Allegro which drove along at a breathtaking speed, the orchestral strings being seemingly not a whit disturbed thereby in the great precision and clarity they demonstrated.”

Malvern Gazette Arts Review, UK

“The tenth concert in the Gstaad Summer Festival was an absolute pinnacle in this year’s festival. Soloists, Conductor (William Boughton) and orchestra were wonderful individually and together and played most inspiringly for the audience. What can a music critic do in a concert when there is nothing to criticize?”

Berner Oberlander, Switzerland

“On the evidence of these performances William Boughton, who spends part of his time conducting in Finland, is an instinctive Sibelian who can perfectly capture the icy coldness that even invades these miniatures”.

Gramophone, UK

“…I was apprehensive about William Boughton who I did not know at all. I need not have worried. His understanding of these works by Elgar and how they ought to be performed is one of the best I have come across so far and his accompaniment in the concerto was excellent”,

Musical Times, UK

“Boughton’s new version (Maw – Life Studies) seems richer in detail and more powerful in its final impact than the old Marriner recording with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and more atmospherically recorded.”

Gramophone, UK

“Frank Bridge’s There is a willow grows aslant a brook… William Boughton excels in evoking its shadows and sense of waterlogged doom”.

BBC Music Magazine, UK

“The English String Orchestra certainly knows how to perform English string music”.

On the Air Magazine, UK

“An English Suite. … and handled by William Boughton with that vigour and sensitivity for which his interpretations of British Music are well known”.

CD Review Magazine, UK

“Boughton is delicate, refined and sensitive. Altogether an excellent compact disc Boughton deftly brings the score to life, one feels that, given the chance, he would be a successful operatic conductor”. (Britten,Four Sea Interludes-Peter Grimes. Suite on English Folk Tunes. The Young Person’s Guide).

Oxford Times, UK

“William Boughton conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra, wrings all the pathos and colour out of the score, a truly wonderful version (Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherazade)”.

USA Today Magazine, USA

“Boughton has a real knack for richness that never steps over the line into sentimentality, coupled with a keen feeling for tempo selection. Colour him elegant!”.

Fanfare Magazine, USA

“Boughton elicits solid, brilliant, feeling performances with never a trace of tiredness nor of bombast beyond the supply built into Elgar’s uncommonly effective rhetoric. Boughton must, to some extent, be drawing upon instinct, for he can’t be senior enough to accumulate the wisdom one feels to be at work”.

Fanfare Magazine, USA

“One cannot imagine that William Boughton’s warmly sympathetic performances will soon be surpassed” (Mendelssohn Complete String Symphonies).

Chicago Tribune, USA

“He is a serious, energetic and vital conductor with far more than his rightful share of imagination and musicality. A virtuoso.” I would have thought it unlikely that, skilled as he is, he would succeed in this repertoire. But succeed he does. The fast sections of Rodeo are full of swagger, humor, and show his unabashed delight in their vervy syncopations. Boughton’s Appalachian Spring, is fully satisfying on all levels. It’s an ultra clear, probing and loving performance. The recording is both technically first-rate and generous, the orchestra is superb and Boughton brings an infectious enthusiasm to the proceedings”. (Copland: Rodeo, Quiet City, Nonet for Strings, Appalachian Spring)

Fanfare Magazine, USA
October 22nd 2007

NEW HAVEN – “The Boughton era has begun. After a two-year selection process, William Boughton, a British conductor with an impressive international resume, made his debut as the 10th music director of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra at Thursday’s concert at Woolsey Hall.

In his two guest appearances in previous seasons – job interviews, if you will—the conductor had left a strong impression both for rigorous musicianship and a wide-ranging taste in repertoire. Both those perceptions were confirmed in his official bow this week.

The public has yet to hear him in the hit parade of Mozart-Beethoven-Tchaikovsky staples that dominate most regular symphony programs. Instead, Boughton has mined remote, shadowy corners of the classical library. After samplings of Finnish and Russian composers, this concert dealt in not-so-familiar 20th-century French imports, with local guest performers on hand for balance.

The forest of organ pipes above the stage of Woolsey Hall added a special resonance in a concerto for the great instrument as well as a requiem mass with ample organ accompaniment. Another splendid instrument—the finely blended voices of the Yale Camerata—took the stage in the second half for the Requiem by French composer Maurice Durufle.

First came Gabriel Faure’s “Pelleas et Melisande” Suite, which includes one familiar melody in the third movement, but otherwise made a fairly muted impression. The taut, elegant string playing in the first movement, punctuated by incisive woodwind solos, showed the tight control we already associate with Boughton’s podium style. The subtle charms of a brief Durufle “Sicilienne,” a gentle dance melody presented for the first time in the U.S., also earned respectful applause.

At least we had the reliable theatrical style of Francis Poulenc to inject some excitement. An eclectic, whom Boughton introduced as “a mixture of monk and street urchin,” Poulenc’s organ concerto presents a patchwork, combining themes from church and street, salon and cabaret—with sudden eruptions of thundering bass chords.

The technical challenges of this jagged terrain, combined with its thematic restlessness, can make a listener nervous. But in the hands of the Wesleyan University organist Ronald Ebrecht and with firm, apparently effortless, control by the conductor, the surprises and risks captured the playful spirit the composer intended. Ebrecht’s flair and forcefulness—not to mention speed and precision in the daunting pedal work—showed off the wonders of Woolsey’s renowned Newberry Organ.

The Durufle Requiem, a 1947 work by one of France’s great organists (and a teacher of Ebrecht), inspires respect for its sober, disciplined evocation of the fears and hopes associated with human mortality. Drawing on chaste, eloquent Gregorian chant and skilled combinations of instrumental and vocal colors, the work has dignity to spare.

The performance offered by Yale Camerata, the NHSO, two fine soloists and a super-confident Boughton showed real conviction. If the choral singing of these difficult lines sometimes seemed to lack expressive profile, the tonal purity and dynamic control were exemplary.

Without indulging in flamboyant show, the conductor brought out the inherent drama of the words and music and emphasized vibrant contrasts in volume, tempo and mood. Baritone Jason Steigerwalt and mezzo-soprano Laura Atkinson were the strong soloists; Atkinson’s ardent tone and expressivity made her solo “Pie Jesu” a major highlight.

Some in the hall may have felt nostalgic for the less challenging ways of the previous music director, but there’s no denying the sense of energy and adventure that permeated Boughton’s debut”.

David J. Baker
New Haven Register


“…Boughton has an innate sensitivity to music of this nature” (Finzi Love’s Labours Lost).

American Record Guide, USA

“Boughton displayed a commanding presence borne of long-term familiarity with Elgar’s ‘In the South’ and Holst’s The Planets, plus a deft hand with Rouse’s Concerto for Flute and Orchestra. The orchestra worked up a splendid account of the piece (Elgar), especially in the powerful, wind heavy declamations … If anyone today can claim Holst’s extraterrestrial masterpiece as a signature, it is Boughton. He has played the piece countless times and has developed a detailed account that pours light into all of its many regions and mysteries”.

Scott MacClelland
San Jose Mercury

“We rarely encounter the English Symphony Orchestra in such radical international repertoire as this, but Boughton and his band rise admirably to the challenges” (Nimbus Record NI 5582 Soloist Daniel Hope Weill, Takemitsu, Schnittke).

Calum MacDonald
BBC Music Magazine
January 2007

 “NHSO gains top form after slow start
Is classical music an endangered species? Forecasts of extinction crop up everywhere, but Saturday’s concert by the New Haven Symphony Orchestra told a different story. Parents and children swelled the ranks of Woolsey Hall, the result of a promotion to attract young listeners. The programme itself, an all Russian dose of 20th Century music, offered a test for performers and audience alike. The evenings’s second half belonged to the conductor and orchestra,. Rachmaninov’s ‘Vocalise’ offered a seamless flow and polished surfaces, it also had a familiar, comforting dose of melody, which seemed welcome amid the evening’s dissonant challenges.

By the time the NHSO attacked the big final work – Shostakovich’s Symphony No 1, everyone seemed in top form. In the first movement’s chamber-like moments gave the quirky interwoven themes interesting accents, and the players dug into their solos with obvious relish. The youthful work had its premiere in 1925 when the composer was 19, it has ponderous stretches but on this occasion they seemed unusually compelling. In the music’s roughneck crescendos and hairpin curves, the orchestras technical assurance was also a tribute to an impressive conductor”.

David J. Baker
New Haven Register
November 2006

 “NHSO delivers refreshing, exciting program under guest conductor.
The New Haven Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of British guest conductor William Boughton produced an refreshing and exciting program last Saturday. Despite his understated stage presence, his conducting reveals an elegance that shows in the breadth of expression and effective control of the ensemble. He conducted with his hands, using no baton, and his manner might have seemed self-effacing had it not elicited such expressive playing from the orchestra”.

Dana Astmann
New Haven Register
 October 2006

 “The program’s success also was attributable to British guest conductor William Boughton, making his first appearance with Symphony Silicon Valley. He is an incisive music shaper; the orchestra responded to his leadership, hushing and surging through the Mozart and, later, Schumann’s Symphony No 2, which received a largely heroic performance. The strings especially, sounded rich…and the orchestra got down to the heroic core of the symphony with its thrusting rhythms, thickening textures and uplifting melodies. The performance had a grandeur to it; it felt triumphant”.

San Jose Mercury News
Jyvaskyla Sinfonia – November 2004

 ‘Felix Mendellsohn’s 3rd Symphony ‘The Scottish’ was built up as the core energy of the concert. William Boughton brought out the music’s rugged beauty, wild wind of the moors and the scent of the earth. Boughton did not settle for classical smoothness but tuned the orchestra’s playing with rough vitality. The whole was magnificently formed and performed beautifully.

Jyvaskyla Sinfonia made Strauss’ Metamorphosen a huge musical experience under William Boughton’s direction. The Orchestra reached a unique connection—a connection with each other, a connection to the core of the composition and a connection to the audience. The glow of the music was burning inside. William Boughton’s two-week period with the Orchestra achieved an ending to remember”.

Menuhin Festival Gstaad – August 2001

 “It was not surprising that the Gstaad performance of Orff’s “Carmina Burana” was greeted with standing ovations. The performance was filled with a blend of bombast, refinement, vitality, sensuality, joie-de-vivre and jest. The English Conductor William Boughton presided over everything in a considered and thoughtful way, bringing out the voices clearly without handing over to them, and obviously succeeded in motivating all those taking part to the highest level of performance . Boughton’s approach to Orff aimed for (and succeeded) great precision and often fast tempi; it emphasised the dance element without neglecting the quieter lyrical passages and did not shy away from the direct and piercing stresses—it possessed pep and pizzaz—a personal and emotionally coloured message did not appear to be at the centre of things for the conductor.”

Der Bund


“Boughton and the orchestra (Symphony Silicon Valley) gave it a compelling reading (Schumann Symphony No 2), spaciously paced and full bodied in its sonorities. After its quiet beginning – with trumpets hinting at fanfares that return throughout the piece—Boughton saw his opportunity to show off the orchestras muscular grandeur at the climax of the development. The accelerando at the end of the second movement scherzo sizzled. Boughton shaped the long line of yearning and disquiet slow movement with a masterful sense of Schumannesque ‘romantic’ phrasing”.

Scott MacClelland
San Jose Mercury News

“Sibelius has always appealed to English maestros. Witness classic recordings and significant cycles by Anthony Collins, Malcolm Sargent, John Barbirolli, Thomas Beecham, and Colin Davis. Add to these names that of William Boughton, who, based on this two-CD compilation, has a fine feeling for the Finnish composer’s music. The first disc, recorded with the Royal Philharmonic, is new to me, and features a crackerjack performance of the Second symphony. Boughton’s approach is propulsive, yet never brutal or hurried; I prefer this somewhat crisp approach to the inflated and pompous ones usually heard. The two tone poems are handled in the same taut manner, and the orchestra plays all three works with splendid execution. The other CD was recorded with Boughton’s home ensemble, the English String Orchestra, expanded with wind players when called for in the scoring. Here again, Boughton’s readings seem right on the mark, featuring an especially sensitive and well-played version of the Pelléas et Mélisande Suite. The sound on the Royal Philharmonic disc is a bit mushy, a mid-hall perspective with excellent stage depth but a bit too much reverberation. The English String Orchestra CD was recorded closer, has good detail, and a more intimate sound appropriate to the smaller-scaled works on the disc. The sound rating, then, is an average of 6 and 8. These recordings won’t cause me to get rid of the ones by Barbirolli, Collins, or Beecham, but I will come back to them again”.

Classics Today
Rad Bennett


NHSO at its ‘inspired best’ in generous program

 NEW HAVENFamiliarity does not always breed contempt. Many schoolchildren can hum the four-note “fate” theme from Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and Walt Disney’s 1940 animated feature “Fantasia” exploited that composer’s tuneful Sixth, the so-called Pastoral Symphony. Yet at Thursday’s New Haven Symphony Orchestra concert in Woolsey Hall, both of these perennials seemed not just hardy but fresh.

Continuing the season’s survey of the Beethoven Nine, the orchestra and conductor William Boughton were at their inspired best in a generous program that contrasted the Fifth Symphony in C Minor and the Sixth in F Major.

With aggressive tempos and strongly accented phrasing, Boughton maintained a sense of adventure and boldness in both symphonies without sacrificing refinement. He was above all flexible, alert to the frequent contrasts between stentorian force and a gentle, plaintive solo, or the sudden switch from darkness to humor.

The orchestra’s giant staccato “fate” chords were bullet-like, and the choir of strings poured out billows of cushioned sound in lyrical passages. The dramatic flourishes by individual instruments – sometimes a signpost, at other times like a plea or a dramatic warning signal – always rang out clearly against the passing stampede.

Amid the general excellence, maybe a special nod should go to the often unsung double bass players, who mustered such dense tone and precision in the breakneck string fugue in the Fifth Symphony. They brought similar energy to staccato passages in the Sixth, suggesting growling thunder in its fourth movement.

Some might have wished for a bit more mellowness early in the Sixth Symphony to offset the pounding storm that follows. But the gleaming layers of string tone in the final movement provided ample compensation.

Tucked in between the program’s two giants was a brief recent work, “Monk Dance,” written and performed by Jin Hi Kim. On elaborate Korean drums and smaller rhythm tools, Kim offered three extended, varied solos that make her rich collage into a miniconcerto for percussion and orchestra. The dynamic piece’s high-pitched curling melodic fragments had an evocative Asian flavor. “Monk Dance” was a reprise after the 1997 premiere of the piece by this orchestra. Its color and temperament were not out of place on this mostly Beethoven menu”.

David J. Baker
New Haven Register


‘NHSO precise, compelling under Boughton’s Baton’

 NEW HAVEN – “The music of Arnold Schoenberg can scare people, as New Haven Symphony Orchestra Music Director William Boughton acknowledged in a brief comment to the audience at the start of Thursday’s concert in Woolsey Hall.

“So I commend you for showing up this evening,” he continued, before explaining that the orchestra was about to perform one of the least frightening compositions by the 20th century master of atonality and alienation.

“Verklaerte Nacht” (“Transfigured Night”), Schoenberg’s 1899 symphonic essay for strings, precedes the 12-tone method that earned him a unique chapter in music history. It is also an example of program music, that is, a work on a specific subject. The composer took his inspiration from a German poem by Richard Dehmel about a couple taking an evening stroll that leads to a painful confession.

In Boughton’s hands the late romantic-styled work unfolded as a moody evocation of a moonlit night and a stirring emotional drama. The NHSO strings excelled at delicate shadings to evoke the tension of the nocturnal atmosphere, disturbing references to the woman’s past and a transfiguring acceptance on the part of her husband, in a burst of expansive emotion.

The “voices” of the two characters, portrayed hauntingly by violinist Artemis Simerson and cellist Steven Thomas, conveyed both apprehension and affirmation. The conductor led a precise and focused performance, while maintaining an unusual degree of intensity. Unlike some recorded versions of the work, this conductor never allowed the complex intertwined lines of violins, violas and cellos to sound abstract or academic.

The second half of the evening offered a more limited approach to program music. Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major acquired a nickname, the “Eroica” or heroic symphony, and was even dedicated to Napoleon until the composer objected to the Bonaparte imperial ambitions.

Musicologists continue to argue whether music can mean or express anything beyond its own sounds, but this symphony can inspire thoughts of heroism—not associated with any historical individual— because of its expansive scale, lofty tone and original remaking of classical symphonic structure.

Boughton seemed to approach the music in this vein, in a forceful, exuberant performance that moved at a speed that was both risky and exhilarating. In the first movement, the long chains of imitative fragments, first by woodwind solos, then horn and finally massed strings and brass, sounded a little reckless rather than completely poised. But the conductor melded the repeated figures into a unit – not only keeping each voice on track, but also managing both a crescendo and an acceleration to round off the segment with a bang.

The high point was the effective playing of the dramatic second movement. Beethoven encourages thoughts of heroism by labeling it a funeral march, making it the longest section of his sizeable work, and stretching the emotional arc with enormous variety to suggest despair, hope, resistance, resignation and other shades of feeling.

Here, as in other sections, the conductor’s special accents in key phrases had an effect that both steadied the playing and compelled attention. The French horns in particular have a grueling series of fanfares in the “trio” section that can make or break the third movement (Beethoven’s “scherzo”).

Boughton did not slow down, as many conductors do for the challenging trio, and yet the NHSO horns came through reliably on the four repetitions of the theme, digging incisively into the accented notes in a way that gave shape as well as force to the flourishes”.

David J. Baker
New Haven Register