HOLST (1874-1934) The Planets: Suite for Orchestra Op 32 (1914-16) [49:24]
Lyric Moment for Viola and small orchestra (1933) [11:49] Neptune – The Mystic (with original ending) [6:50] Colin MATTHEWS (b.
Pluto – The Renewer [6:22]
Timothy Pooley (viola)
Ladies of the Hallé Choir
Hallé Orchestra/Mark Elder
rec. 27-28 March 2001, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. DDD HYPERION HELIOS CDH55350 [75:00]
The Planets always has a curious
effect on me. My first reaction is to groan, ever so slightly,
as a result of the Classic FM-style popularity of the work.
This popularity is in itself is no bad thing, but the work
has become something of an overused cliché, in my mind at
least. However, every single time I listen to the work -
or indeed play it - I cannot fail to marvel at Holst’s undeniable
genius. On many levels, the work owes its popularity to its
sheer brilliance, and that is not something to be sniffed
at in a ridiculous pseudo-intellectual “let’s keep classical
music for the elite” type of argument. Classical music can,
with enough of an open mind, appeal in some way to every
single member of the human race. After all, it shares a common
language – that of emotion. Well-written works such as this
deserve to be heard by all, not just those of us with music
degrees. It is to be celebrated that Holst created a masterwork
with such widespread appeal.
Here, Mars is taken at a moderate
tempo, giving a good balance between, drama, clarity and
restraint. Venus is delicate and magically ethereal,
while Mercury’s cheerful character comes across with
ease. Jupiter is bright and sparkling, with the famous ‘I
vow to thee my country’ section possessing a certain
luminescence and lightness which is particularly appealing. Saturn is
rich and dark, with the addition of exotic instruments such
as the alto flute - notated as ‘bass flute in G’ in the score.
This rendition is heavy and tired, and yet hope is retained. Uranus is
powerfully rhythmical and eccentric, while Neptune ends
the work with peaceful contemplation. This is an excellent
recording which possesses a strong feel for the individual
characters of the movements and looks upon the work with
somewhat fresh eyes. Elder’s sound is rich and warm and remarkably
clear. The choir is beautifully haunting, Holst’s magical
orchestration performed here par excellence.
Colin Matthews’ Pluto, first performed
in 2000, begins out of the last notes of Neptune,
and maintains the character of Holst’s language. It’s a lively
scherzo with the underlying dark sounds of Holst resonating
under the brightness of the flighty high woodwind and brass
flourishes. Matthews has created an interesting addition
to Holst’s work, which both complements it and uses it as
a starting point for new ideas.
Holst’s Lyric Movement for viola
and small orchestra was composed for Lionel Tertis in 1933.
This one movement work is performed here with conviction
and a rhapsodic sense of changing emotions. Timothy Pooley
plays with a warm, rich sound which leads us into the world
of Holst’s writing with ease.
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