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on 2 January 2003
If ever there was a one hit wonder of the Classical World it is Gustav Holst. Don't miss out on his other music, especially when it is as well played and such a bargain as here.
David Lloyd Jones and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra give us a varied selection of the composers shorter orchestral works. They appear to have a natural affinity for the composer's sound world which manages to be both rich and restrained at the same time.
Holst went on trips with Vaughan Williams collecting folk tunes and his Somerset Rhapsody makesan interesting comparison with Vaughan Williams folk influenced works.
Ben Mora mixes full blooded late nineteenth century romanticism with more modern ideas.It and the bold brassy Fugal Overture are the nearest things here to The Planets Suite.
The Invocation for Cello and Orchestral is given a wonderfully searching rendition by Tim Hugh on the Cello. It is grounded in the late romantics but also seems to reach forward in time sounding not so far from Gorecki or John Tavener's The Protecting Veil.
A sense of Holst as an early 'Holy Minimalist' composer is even stronger in Edgon Heath as a simple musical figure is slowly developed, gradually appearing from the mists to achieve a beautiful resolution
I was initially disappointed to find that Hammersmith appearsin its original wind instrument version rather than the full orchestral one. But only until I heard it. Rarely has a wind band produced such a rich sound. This evocation of London near the River Thames calls to be heard next to Vaughan Williams' London Symphony.
Well, with something for lovers of the Late Romantics, Vaughan Williams,and the likes of Gorecki and John Tavener this is a disc that deserves wide attention. In fact it should appeal to anyone who enjoys the melodic side of twentieth century classical music. Don't let Holst be a one hit wonder any longer.
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on 3 June 2005
This is a gorgeous recording and one of Naxos' amazing bargains - excelling quality for hardly any money. The "Somerset Rhapsody" is tremendously evocative - full of rousing melodies and brilliantly orchestrated, superbly performed too. The real revelation for me, though, is the "Invocation for Cello and Orchestra", which I would thoroughly recommend to anyone - an absolute gem of a piece - I can't understand how I had never heard it before as it is truly beautiful. The cello performance by Tim Hugh is perfect - very moving. The orchestra reaches inspiring heights too. You should buy this - you can't go wrong!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 12 May 2011
I suppose it took the combination of the superlative press reviews of this excellent Naxos collection, and my delight on listening to this beautiful recording, reinforced by the recent excellent BBC4 film on Holst, for me to realise how relatively unsung he is, given the breadth and range of his compositional career. The music here is both conventionally pastoral and lyrical, yet shot through with a deeper unease which anticipates both Britten, and the use of an insistent musical pulse, which became reflected in the minimalism of Glass, Adams and Reich. Needless to say, this originality was rarely appreciated by the audiences of the time.

My fellow reviewers have done a masterful job in exploring the strengths and qualities of the pieces here, so I'd like to stress the quality of the outstanding performance by the Scottish National Orchestra under the baton of David Lloyd-Jones, drawing some scintillating playing from his musicians. The album is full of power and delicacy, strings and brass beautifully balanced, with a lovely warm and clear recording at the Henry Wood Hall in Glasgow. Tim Hugh's bow work in the Invocation for Cello and Orchestra is a gossamer wonder, and has echoes of Elgar. Following the pastoral hues of Somerset Rhapsody, Beni Mora has both the exotic colours and swirling sensuousness of dance movements, allied to Holst's ground-breaking use of a repeated melodic pulse to beguile and entrance, while the relative starkness of Egdon Heath (written for Thomas Hardy, who Holst much admired, who died before its first performance), provides a suitable foil. As you might expect, Hammersmith is a bustling, lively piece. There's not a weak piece here, and the whole collection is sparklingly presented.

A similar level of performance by this conductor and orchestra can also be found when they tackle Holst's 'signature work' Holst: The Planets & The Mystic Trumpeter Op.18 To end where I began: both Gramophone and the Penguin Guide (***) rate this as a 'splendid recording', while I would encourage admirers of Holst to see the excellent BBC4 film without delay, as it really is that good!
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This thought provoking and informative disc, recorded in 1996, provides valuable insights into six more pieces, three from the world before the Planets and three from after. This is not a random choice but a carefully chosen selection, recorded chronologically, and intended to put the most familiar works of Holst in the context of a broader time scale.

To that end the disc starts with the early Somerset Rhapsody which shows the immediate attraction of folk-song to Holst. This rapidly expanded to the Orient with Beni Mora. The last movement with its repetitive figure in particular points the way forward to the future Planets and is already some distance from Somerset in every way. The Invocation for cello and orchestra is a most attractive work that both Holst and Imogen Holst did not recognise as being of great value. Thus it has remained largely forgotten up to now. It is given a very sensitive performance by Tim Hugh and is clearly a work worth greater exposure.

Holst found his popularity resulting from the Planets and the similar but much shorter Perfect Fool ballet far from his taste, being of a more academic frame of mind. He therefore chose to continue on his own path and his later works were considered tougher to crack from the listeners' point of view.

This disc provides three examples of the path that Holst took away from his 'middle' and most publicly successful period. The Fugal Overture is still relatively easy to follow and clearly owes a great deal of it's world to the sound world of the Planets. There are the same asymmetrical rhythms and textural use of the orchestral instruments. Egdon Heath, on the other hand, is an accurately bleak landscape portrait based on ideas put forward by Thomas Hardy and whose words are quoted in the heading to the score. The piece is certainly evocative and effective but inhabits a musical and interpretive world far removed from the early Somerset Rhapsody. Finally there is the bustling and busy Hammersmith, known also in its band version. This too inhabits a darker world which belies its surface energy and completes the journey embarked upon by this fine and instructive disc.

The recording quality is of high quality with wide-ranging dynamics. This means that in order to hear the quieter passages some of the louder passages may be difficult to cope with in restricted circumstances. This is not a criticism, just an observation. This is still far preferable than restricting Holt's sound-world artificially by cutting the recording levels at climatic points.

Both Lloyd-Jones and the Scottish orchestra prove to be fine guides to this music and continue their fine series of recordings for Naxos.

I would strongly suggest that this disc makes an ideal supplement to the Planets and would suggest that it warrants serious consideration by anyone interested in the program.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 June 2012
This disc is simply a wonderful introduction to listeners who want to get to know Holst as more then just composer of 'The Planets Suite'. The music contained here has a common thread -ripely melodic, often evocative of the English pastoral tradition but tinged with an undertow of romantic melancholia or sense of dramatic foreshadowing, indicating that Holst's music has depths way deeper and quirkier then it's surface conventionality might suggest.

Wherever you roam on this disc, there is much to enjoy- 'Somerset Rhapsody' is an absolute beauty as is captivating lyrical introduction to 'Invocation for Cello and Orchestra', where as the finale to 'Beni Mora' is a highly atmospheric little piece that stays in the mind long after it has finished. The final composition is a very engaging tone poem 'Hammersmith' which perfectly describes the restive , fitful cityscape in all its bustle- starting slowly, proceeding to much musical incident before dying away in the late hours. In a way it shows just how varied and thoughtful Holst was as a composer.

As other commentators have noted, this is a great disc-an interesting musical selection,well recorded coupled with lively,sensitive performances that bring out the full beauty of Holst's works. Who could ask for more!
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on 29 April 2009
Enchanting CD that proves there's more to Holst than just the magnum opus of The Planets Suite!
Excellent Naxos presentation, performed to perfection (Royal Scottish National Orchestra) and beautifully recorded.
Informative liner notes flesh out the backstory of these pieces.
Every track is first class and there isn't really a dip anywhere in quality. You can expect the same degree of variety, melodic texture and light & shade that you find in the great celestial work. Every thing works individually, but although all the pieces were written separateley it stacks up to a very satisying whole.
Opener Somerset Rhapsody is warm, mysterious & melodic, the next piece Beni Mora has three superb movements which are often violent, dark & suspenseful. Things calm down a bit with the beautiful Invocation For Cello & Orchestra. The Fugal Overture has a lively tempo, followed by the atmospheric Egdon Heath. The album closes with the excellent Hammersmith.
I was unsure about this as the common opinion seems to be that Holst was a one hit wonder but this proves that this is anything but the case!
If you own The Planets then you really need to own this as a rich and rewarding companion piece...
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 29 September 2011
Of course there's more to Holst than The Planets; much more in fact, but still plenty of forgettable guff as well. This Naxos collection is altogether a winner, touching upon the exotic, the pastoral, and the metropolitan: all facets that go together to make Holst's musical character, best expressed in his masterpiece The Planets, a unique and wondrous cause for celebration.

In addition, do look out for Holst's choral partsongs and opera Savitri - Imogen Holst's recordings are exceptional. His ballet music is also very gratifying - Boult or Previn are commendable advocates. You can take your pick of Planets suites - if by some tragedy you still haven't got a copy - but Dutoit in Montreal remains a firm favourite with this listener.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 28 January 2016
The often austere, sometimes rarefied, never sentimental music of Holst, like that of Honegger, Faure or Bax, does not readily yield up its wonders at a first hearing - at least not his lesser known works, The Planets Suite being all too well known.
Here are six well-chosen works beginning with the delightful Somerset Rhapsody, and including a lovely rendition by cellist Tim Hugh and the RSNO under David Lloyd-Jones of the Invocation for Cello and Orchestra. This is a keening, deeply haunting piece which should be far better known.
Also present is the appropriately hermetic Egdon Heath, a work that stands at the centre of Holst's achievement as a composer, and one which typifies the oblique austerity of much of his music.
The short Fugal Overture is a joyous, boisterous riot, and Hammersmith a forceful evocation of urban bustle, with hints of London at night halfway through. A mervellous piece.
The Beni Mora Oriental Suite is a welcome inclusion on this disc of an atypical British composer most of whose music is still too little known by most people, and too seldom programmed by conductors and concert planners.
The sound is fine, the playing excellent.

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on 20 January 2012
I found the recording up to expectations except for one thing, the actual volume.
It's almost inaudible when played from track one, which means if it's played in shuffle mode it sounds as though the playback has actually stopped. But the artistry is great, especially track 4, the Finale to Beni Mora (the reason I bought it). Still woth buying in other words. Also it's a CD that's very hard to get hold off elsewhere.
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on 18 July 2015
I found this a very useful purchase of Holst non-Planetary material (!) because it dovetails very neatly with another CD in my collection which is an EMI recording of Yehudi Menuhin conducting other non-Planetary Holst. I think that only 'Somerset Rhapsody' is duplicated in the two compilations and I was particularly 'after' the Egdon Heath on the recording under review. I divide Holst's compositions into three categories: first 'The Planets' which work tends to dominate his output; second his best known works other than The Planets which are featured on this CD and the Menuhin one and third many other lesser-known works that are mainly for Holst 'completists'. I wonder what Holst would have made of the current fly past of Pluto which was not known as a heavenly body when he wrote his most famous work. First Pluto was acknowledged as a planet after its discovery in about 1930, then much more recently said not to be a planet but often referred to as a planet during the fly past. I suspect he would have retired hurt!
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