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Gustav HOLST (1874-1934)
A Winter Idyll (1897) [7.04]
Cotswold Symphony in F, Op. 8 (1900): Elegy: In Memoriam William Morris [9.02]
Indra, Symphonic Poem, Op. 13 (1903) [12.33]
A Song of the Night for Violin and Orchestra Op. 19 No. 1 (1905) [8.45]
Sita: Interlude from Act III, Op. 23 (1906) [5.49]
Invocation for Cello and Orchestra Op. 19 No. 2 (1911) [9.28]
The Lure, Ballet Music for Orchestra (1921) [8.40]
Dances from The Morning of the Year Op. 45 No. 2 (1927) [13.45]
Lorraine McAslan (violin)
Alexander Baillie (cello)
London Symphony Orchestra/David Atherton
London Philharmonic Orchestra/David Atherton (Invocation)
rec. 1982, 1993. ADD/DDD
LYRITA SRCD 209 [75.58]

Gustav HOLST (1874-1934)

Two Songs without Words, Op. 22 (1908): Country Song [4.26]; Marching Song [3.37]
Fugal Concerto for Flute, Oboe and Strings, Op. 40 No. 2, (1923) [8.04]
The Golden Goose Ballet Music, Op. 45 No. 1 (1926; arr. I. Holst 1969) [14.51]
A Moorside Suite: Nocturne (1928; arr. I. Holst) [6.39]
Double Concerto for Two Violins and Orchestra, Op. 49 (1929) [14.23]
Lyric Movement for Viola and Small Orchestra (1933) [9.57]
Brook Green Suite for Strings (1933) [7.12]
Capriccio for Orchestra (1933; arr. I. Holst 1968) [6.02]
William Bennett (flute); Peter Graeme (oboe); Emanuel Hurwitz, Kenneth Sillito (violins)
English Chamber Orchestra/Imogen Holst
Recorded 1967 and 1970 ADD
LYRITA SRCD 223 [75.11]

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Reviewing these disks together is justified since both consist of unfamiliar works by the same composer - indeed most of these are first and only recordings. Also the hand of Imogen Holst hovers over both, as conductor or as editor. Taken in the order listed, the works are presented on the disks in remarkably close to chronological order from earliest to last.

Holstís The Planets, along with Rimsky-Korsakovís Scheharazade, has been recognized world-wide since the 1970s as one of the most opulent, durable and popular large orchestral scores ever written. Most people who admire it do not care for his other music which is smaller in scope, less passionate, frequently less mystical. However The Planets is a good anthology of Holstís many styles, and some of the works on these disks can be compared to one "Planet" or another.

All this music was available on LP in the 1970s, and briefly on CD from 1992, but after a long period of unavailability, here it is in worldwide distribution. Sound quality is exceptional; with most of the material in analogue transfer and some of it in digital recording; there is no noticeable difference between the two.

I once had the temerity to define symphonic "American Style" and then had to list the American composers who donít adhere to it. British style would be at once more difficult to pin down and if British composers could be ranked by percentage numbers as to how closely they would adhere to it, Holst would come very close to 100%. Even when he is writing "Indian" music, Holstís mysticism is that of Thomas Tallis and William Byrd.

Holst often acknowledged the influence of Grieg, and if his Winter Idyll were to be paired with Griegís In Autumn on a concert program, many would think that they were written by the same hand.

Imogen Holst discouraged access to the four movement Cotswold Symphony, one of Holstís earliest orchestral works, perhaps because she felt it would embarrass her father and injure his reputation. The work was never played after its initial performance in 1902. However, with the recent worldwide renewal of interest in Romantic musical style, this exquisite slow movement is occasionally played, a tribute to William Morris (1834-1896) Pre-Raphaelite artist and Socialist political writer and lecturer who had inspired Holst with his ideals. Morrisí tapestry designs are still in demand. The whole work can also be heard on a ClassicO CD.

Indra from 1903 sounds more like the later Holst style we are familiar with. One hears fleeting echoes of many of the later famous works in this substantial dramatic big orchestra tone-poem on the adventures of the Indian god. The Lure and Dances from the Morning of the Year are the most eclectic works on the disk, sounding at moments like everybody from Falla to Nielsen to Respighi, with an odd echo of Uranus or Neptune from The Planets here and there. But the framework is unmistakably Holst, unique and original. Country Song strikingly prefigures "Jupiter" from The Planets showing his first thoughts on the famous Big Tune.

The Fugal Concerto is just that, "fugal," but not a fugue. But the reference to Bach is not left at that; the slow movement is a witty parergon* to the slow movement passacaglia of the Bachís Fifth keyboard concerto, particularly in its oboe arrangement as the sinfonia to Cantata 156. The Golden Goose music may be familiar to you as it has been occasionally played and recorded. It has a characteristic Holstian fanfare theme that, once heard, cannot be forgotten. The Nocturne is exquisitely beautiful, employing one of Holstís trademark marching basses.

The double violin concerto begins with another "fugal" movement, a scherzo, proceeding with some "Uranian" capers before resuming with a stunning double passage. The middle movement, lament, is a gorgeous duet for the two soloists. The final movement is a virtuoso set of variations. This is one of my very favorite of all Holstís works; it is amazing that it is not more frequently played.

The Brook Green Suite is another work more often heard, but no less lovely for its familiarity. The Capriccio may be more familiar in its band arrangement but I prefer this orchestral version prepared by Imogen Holst in 1968. Following a subdued introduction the music breaks into one of Holstís most jaunty march tunes, then we have a grand chorale tune before the march is reprised.

The status of lesser works by a famous composer is always problematic, but try this experiment: play this disk for your musical friends and tell them the music is by a previously unknown British composer. My bet is theyíll want to hear more, want to know more about this undoubtedly great composer; and that should be our guide.

*OED, No. 2

Paul Shoemaker

see also reviews by Colin Clarke SRCD209 SRCD223

The Lyrita Catalogue


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