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HOLST Cotswolds Symphony; Ballet Music from The Perfect Fool; A Hampshire Suite; Walt Whitman Overture, Scherzo for Orchestra.   Munich Symphony Orchestra/Douglas Bostock ClassicO CLASSCD 284 65:00 min


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One of the most impressive concerts I've attended lately was Douglas Bostock's debut with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic during this year's Kings Lynn Festival. Bostock conducted a white-hot interpretation of Nielsen's 5th Symphony which fortunately was recorded by ClassicO (along with Nielsen's 2nd Symphony) the day after the concert. If that recording manages to capture some of the intensity that made the concert performance so electrifying, than I suspect Bostock will be reaping a considerable amount of praise for his first recording (that I know of) with a front-rank British orchestra. Most of his recordings for the ClassicO label have featured regional German and Czech orchestras including his recent series of British music recordings using the Munich Symphony Orchestra. That series has been warmly received but critics have not ignored the often variable playing of the Munich band. His recent recording of the Bax 6th Symphony showed tremendous insights into the music but was let down by an orchestra that was technically challenged beyond its abilities. This Holst disc is more successful due largely to the nature of the music which is smaller-sized and less virtuosic than the Bax. Nevertheless, I hope Bostock's new association with the RLPO means he'll be using that orchestra for his future recordings of British music.

Having said all that, I will admit that the Munich Symphony play very well in this new recording. The fact that they sound so much at home in these early works by Holst isn't surprising considering how much early Holst sounds like Wagner, Dvorak and Mendelssohn; the bread and butter of any Central European Orchestra. Bostock has assembled a terrific program combining several of Holst's earliest scores with two of his later masterworks thus allowing listeners a remarkable opportunity to witness how Holst developed from a promising talent into a great composer. Both the Cotswolds Symphony and the Walt Whitman Overture are given world première recordings although the symphony's beautiful second movement, Elegy (In Memoriam William Morris), has been recorded before. The third work on the disc is the Hampshire Suite which is actually Holst's popular Suite in F for military band in an arrangement for orchestra made by Gordon Jacob. Bostock conducts a very colorful performance of The Perfect Fool Ballet Music and then concludes his program with the Scherzo for Orchestra from the unfinished symphony that Holst was working on at the time of his death in 1934.

It took a little time for me to warm up to the early symphony and overture simply because they don't sound anything like the mature Holst I love. Nevertheless, these are pleasurable pieces which Bostock and his players invest with vigor and charm. The Hampshire Suite is very successful in its orchestral arrangement and would be a guaranteed crowd-pleaser if heard in concert. Bostock's performances of the Perfect Fool Ballet Music and Scherzo show him to be in complete sympathy with Holst's distinctive sound world although it is in these later works where the limitations of the Munich Symphony are most apparent. They simply aren't a match for the London Philharmonic which sounds fuller and more refined in their recordings of these same works with Sir Adrian Boult. ClassicO does provide a spacious and natural recording which is a huge improvement on their earlier very dry-sounding Bax disc.

My final verdict is that this disc is well worth its price and should be in the library of any serious collector of 20th Century British music. The program is enjoyable and Bostock again shows us what a versatile and inspired conductor he is. I look forward to his up-coming recordings with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.


Richard R. Adams

(four stars for sound and performance)

The British Symphonic Collection


Richard R. Adams

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