Gustav HOLST (1874-1934)
The Hymn of Jesus (1917) [21:36]
The Perfect Fool - Ballet Music (1918-22) [10:39]
Egdon Heath (1927) [12:45]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult
rec. 15 March 1961, Kingsway Hall, London
Source used for transfer: Decca LP SXL6006
HIGH DEFINITION TAPE TRANSFER HDCD215 [45:00]
HDTT lists are always worth keeping an osprey eye on. You never know what they
are going to come up with.
At one time HDTT used to source all their material from the commercial reel-to-reel
tapes that in the 1950s-1970s were more popular in the USA than in the UK. Some
of the sound they realised from these sources remains astonishingly vivid -
a real buzz to hear. This CD derives from an iconic British Council-sponsored
Decca LP. It was from the Beatles era when British classical music was pretty
scarce in the catalogues.
The price you pay is a barely audible vinyl pre-echo. It would have been print-through
if from an iron-oxide magnetic reel. It’s there to be heard - on headphones
- at the start of The Perfect Fool music. The sound is sumptuously piled
high and deep across an excitingly wide and lively soundstage. My CD player
picked up a transient skip at 3.10 but otherwise the experience is as it should
Mention of The Perfect Fool reminds me that we really do need the whole
thing recorded. It has been broadcast by Groves (1972) and Handley (1995) on
BBC Radio 3 and you would have thought that at least the Handley would have
survived from 1995. After that how about the complete opera Sita.
The Hymn of Jesus is a work of fervent oriental enchantment which has
some things distantly in common with Szymanowski’s Song of the Night
and Stabat Mater. Boult in 1961 directs an empathetic performance which
moves rapidly from dimension to spatial dimension from great roaring combers
of sound to mystical confidings. As an example of the excellence of the recording
try 12:00 where the remotely tinkling piano is captured clearly yet without
undue assertion. A second after the last note of the Hymn the transfer
has picked up a stray low level pick-up click - just an isolated aural artefact.
Otherwise this disc reminds us of the great things that were chalked up during
the analogue years. The original LP can be counted alongside EMI’s achievement
with the Elgar/Silvestri In the South. It’s also in the same league
- surprisingly enough - as a glorious Beni Mora by Sargent/BBCSO (HMV
BLP1101). That constantly stunning EMI 10" LP as thick as a plate - well almost.
Such a secure and satisfying recording. The Egdon Heath is sombre and
indomitable - an object lesson in Hardyesque grit and tragedy.
I have not compared the two but as a replica of the original LP which many old
stagers will still have this HDTT disc could be compared with the 2 CD Decca
Holst set from their British Music Collection (review
The Decca also includes a generous selection of other Holst originals from their
The notes are sensibly printed black on white and are very legible.
HDTT should next consider resurrecting one of the finest analogue recordings
of the first part of the nineteen-seventies: Horst Stein conducting the Suisse
Romande in Sibelius’s tone poems on SXL 6542: a black-hearted Finlandia,
a viscerally exciting En Saga and a Pohjola’s Daughter which
is the aural counterpart to the glowing colours of an Akseli Gallen-Kallela
These are sturdy, well measured, well judged performances where a sense of rooted
and dedicated rightness allows this brilliant and sometimes understated music
to emerge naturally.
Sturdy, well measured, well judged performances where a sense of rooted and
dedicated rightness allows the music to emerge naturally.