To be honest, the program of this disc is bottom drawer Holst. Although some skill and craftsmanship shine through occasionally, touches of genuine inspiration are few and relatively far between. The disc opens with the Suite de Ballet, an early work (1899), and pure light music reminiscent of Sullivan and others. While certain numbers are charming enough to sustain interest on a single listening, this is pretty thin brew - the Carnival movement contains some spirit and gusto, but it is only the Scène de nuit that is worth any concentration or repeated listening.
The Song of the Night for violin and orchestra displays a much surer compositional hand (it dates from six years later). Still, inspiration seems to fail Holst here as well, and despite certain nice touches there is little here to really cherish. So that leaves us with the 25 minute one-act chamber opera `The Wandering Scholar', a much later work (1929-30), featuring just five characters and a paper-thin story. Holst uses spare forces and relative simplicity. In other words, we get Holst's later, austere style combined with folk-like simple themes and musical gestures, which would have been tough going even if the music were inspired - which it isn't really, despite the occasional clever touch.
The singers are allright, but they have little to work with. All of them sound a little weary and rushed, and the characters are over the top one-dimensional, but I guess that's what the score requires. The orchestra seems to have a hard time holding the music together - the phrases are short-breathed and there is little color or shading to realize from the score. They are better in the earlier works, but even here sound quite a bit lackluster. In sum, this is I guess an important release for fans of the composer, but for the rest of us it is probably an issue of more limited interest.