A feast of Holst. Many
of the pieces on this disc come from
the fringes of the Holstian output,
yet there is seemingly infinite delight
here. Of course the fact that the conductor
is Sir Adrian Boult helps – all the
music gets supremely selfless championship
and both London orchestras play their
hearts out for him
is the key-word here. Take the rather
off-puttingly titled Fugal Overture.
Actually, the opening glitters for all
it is worth, its highly rhythmic profile
superbly defined under Sir Adrian. The
work was initially used as the overture
for The Perfect Fool when it
was heard at Covent Garden (May 14th,
1923). Not strictly fugal, it exudes
a neo-classicism yet, as intimated above,
this is not dry music – the inclusion
of sleigh-bells lightens the mood, balanced
by a central episode of darker hue.
Similarly full of life
is the earlier A Somerset Rhapsody
(1906). The themes were collected by
Cecil Sharp, who commissioned the work.
The very English ‘Sheep-Shearing Song’
(‘It’s a rosebud in June’) is played
by the oboe d’amore in this recording
(there is an alternative for ‘normal’
oboe, if the oboe d’amore is unavailable).
Holst adds a bitter-sweet tang to the
folksy harmonies. Interesting to note
that the world of the wind band is there,
too (Holst’s Suite in E flat
was originally for Military Band).
Beni Mora is
perhaps the most famous piece on the
disc (the title comes from Robert Hitchins’
novel, ‘The Gardens of Allah’). Interesting
to hear how, programmed in this order,
Beni Mora seems to grow out of
Somerset Rhapsody. Boult understands
the various undercurrents to this work,
especially in the final ‘In the Street
of the Ouled Näils’, but it is
perhaps in the gossamer lightness and
quasi-Debussian world of the Second
Dance that Holst is most successful.
is a fairly extended portrait piece
(perhaps along the lines of Elgar’s
Cockaigne). Played here in its
fully orchestral version (there is a
wind band score from 1930), Boult tracks
the varied terrain of this piece unerringly.
The shadowy tread of the Prelude (depicting
the Thames) gives way to a vivid Scherzo
(a picture of a Cockney weekend, according
to Michael Kennedy’s booklet notes).
follows, this time all that is left
of an abandoned Symphony that Holst
planned in 1933-34. It is a vividly-coloured
piece and includes a lovely violin solo.
The quiet, gentle moments are the most
Finally, eleven minutes
of pure delight in the form of the Japanese
Suite (1915), contemporary with
The Planets. Japanese dancer
Michio Ito commissioned it, whistling
the authentic tunes to the composer!
The opening bassoon solo (Michael Kennedy
suggests it invokes the Rite of Spring!)
is beautifully played here; the pastiche
of the second movement (‘Ceremonial
Dance’) is simply great fun. All of
the movements are short (the briefest
– ‘Interlude, Song of the Fishermen’
is 0’49 - in fact, one wonders why it
is so short as it is really beautiful).
I suppose we wouldn’t be in Japan without
a Cherry Blossom or two somewhere, and
the fourth movement presents them (‘Dance
under the Cherry Tree’) in all their
A magnificent journey
of exploration, therefore, into the
lesser-known byways of a major composer.
complete Lyrita catalogue