Gustav HOLST (1874-1934)
Symphony in F, Op. 8 The Cotswolds (1900) [27:20]
Walt Whitman Overture, Op. 7 (1899) [7:35]
Suite No. 2 for Military Band in F major, Op. 28 No. 2, H106 arr. Jacobs (1909-11, orch. 1945) [12:01]
The Perfect Fool, Op. 39/H 150: Ballet Music (1918-22) [12:05]
Scherzo for Orchestra, H192 (1934) [5:55]
Munich Symphony Orchestra/Douglas Bostock
rec. no details given but Munich circa 1998
ALTO ALC1170 [65:03]
This collection was first issued on the Danish label ClassicO (CLASSCD 284) with whom Boult pupil, Douglas Bostock collaborated over the British Symphonic Collection. As one of the early issues you can read reviews by Richard Adams and Gerald Fenech elsewhere on the site. Ten discs from that series found their way into a Membran box but quite a few stragglers escaped and the Holst was one of them.
The selection comprises a majority of early works with one very late one. The Cotswolds symphony is in four movements. The first is sprightly, spliced with Grainger, lightened by Tchaikovskian levity and carrying the outdoor spirit of a walk in the Cotswolds and the exhilaration of the rising hill-crest. The second is a long, sustained Elegy (In Memoriam William Morris). This is even more un-English than the first movement. The mood is more occluded with the dreamy moodiness suggesting Tchaikovsky out of Rimsky into Rachmaninov. The third movement gently saunters along with all the confidence of youth. Brahmsian gestures meld with the open air mood of the Beethoven Pastoral. The finale reminded me of Parry and then of the Tchaikovsky suites and then of Dvorák without the darkness of Othello and of Symphony No. 7. The fairly profound Morris movement seems ill-sorted in this company; a bit like Introit amid the outer ‘thorns’ of the Finzi Violin Concerto.
The Walt Whitman overture recalls early Parry and the Dvorak Slavonic Rhapsodies. It lacks the intensity of the Morris movement. The Suite No. 2 (aka A Hampshire Suite) was arranged by Gordon Jacob in the mid-1940s. It’s familiar Holst, unlike the two preceding works. It goes with a catchy swing, a smile and a wink.
Similarly well-known are the Perfect Fool ballet movements. Here they are played attentively but with a straight face. Perhaps if the opera itself were better known and recorded then people would get a better sense of the music. This is one of the few versions I know by a non-English orchestra. The music is mature Holst with the usual cracking writing and playing for the trombones. The Scherzo is all that was completed of a planned symphony. The performance seems not as smack bang on the note as the late 1960s Boult on Lyrita but it has all the requisite virile rush and Apollonian dynamism. Bostock rather nicely brings out at 2.55 a haunting calm from which at 3: 30 a solo violin cries out. The piece ends with a sudden upwelling of energy and barking brass.
The useful notes are by Jeffrey Davis. Pace the cover, the orchestra is the Munich Symphony; not the Munich Philharmonic. And by the way Alto it's ClassicO not ClassiCo. However, where it matters, this release will appeal to those who want to explore their Holst beyond The Planets. Not everything here is up to that standard – what is? – but all five works will reveal curious or satisfying facets of a great original.
Rob Barnett
Reveals curious or satisfying facets of a great original.