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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Holst the hidden, 15 Sept. 2012
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This review is from: Savitri,7 Part Songs, Choral Hymns from Rig Veda (Audio CD)
If all you know of Gustav Holst is 'The Planets' then this and the other Decca Eloquence Holst will surprise and delight you.
The recordings first appeared on Argo in the 1960s with the composer's daughter conducting and we should thank Eloquence Australia and Amazon for making these masterpieces available. Please see my other reviews of these CDs.
The chamber opera Savitri is an early work owing bits to Wagner but still far better than Holst's other attempts at opera. He was a genius with the human voice but not in opera.
These discs give us a chance to hear Part Songs and chamber works from Holst's various periods in his too short life.
I could try to describe the beauty of the music but only hearing it will do so I recommend buying the reissues NOW.
Pricing is more than fair, especially as full texts are supplied of some poetry now out of print. This is another good reason for buying these discs.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DISPOSING OF DEATH, 3 May 2013
By 
DAVID BRYSON (Glossop Derbyshire England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Savitri,7 Part Songs, Choral Hymns from Rig Veda (Audio CD)
Long before a fashionable interest in Oriental cultures flourished in the swinging sixties in England, Gustav Holst had become `enthralled by Hindu literature and philosophy', so his daughter Imogen informs us. He learned enough Sanskrit to translate and set to music poems from the Rig Veda, and four choral settings of these are given on this disc. He also wrote his own libretto for a chamber opera Savitri, based on an episode in the Mahabharata, and we are given a very fine and atmospheric performance of this cold masterpiece with Janet Baker, Robert Tear and Thomas Hemsley in the solo roles. To complete the seventy minutes or so of the disc there are seven part-songs to poems by Holst's friend Robert Bridges plus an elusive setting of a 17th century dialogue by Henry Vaughan in which the Soul tells the Body what sleep really means.

Everything here is for small forces. The Purcell Singers are partnered by harpist Osian Ellis in the Rig Veda poems: we have the same chorus with our three soloists and an ECO semi-orchestra in Savitri; the same minus the soloists in the Bridges numbers; and back to the Purcell Singers alone in the final Vaughan setting. All performances are directed by Imogen Holst. The recordings were done in 1965, and I have no complaint with them, whether or not they are to standards evolved over later decades. The impressions that these compositions left with me allowed little room for weighing up niceties in that department.

The big item here is the extraordinary Savitri. Holst's libretto is in prose, using much the kind of idiom that Bridges deploys in verse, which could be called early-20th-century conservative. That suits me very well, believing as I do that more distinguished poetic expression tends not to go very well to music, at any rate not where English is concerned unless the composer is Britten, whose knowledge of English poetry probably surpassed that of many a professor of the subject. Here in Savitri, and also in the Rig Veda poems and the Bridges items, the music has the chance to outshine its text, and that is the way I like it. Savitri is atmospheric and more than atmospheric. It relates how the devoted wife Savitri persuades Death himself to release his hold on her husband Satyavan. Deeply affected by Savitri's devotion to her husband and her proper respect for himself, Death even lets himself be tricked and bidden `Back to thy kingdom'. I dare say she would not get away with that again, but for now the music has real if icy power, and the singers do it justice as you might expect. Right at the beginning, where Death sings unaccompanied from a distance I wondered slightly whether Hemsley was exactly in tune, but it hardly matters, and Hemsley is more than impressive closer-to and benefiting from orchestral support in the later sequences.

Everything else seems to me admirable as well. There is not a lot of music quite like this, so I am grateful for what I have got here, indeed not just grateful but strongly affected by the atmosphere of it all. Death, where is thy sting? When he returned to his kingdom I dare say he fetched it for his next excursion into the company of mortal men and women, but even so Savitri sings with conviction that Death works alone, but Life is communion, eternal and greater than Death himself. I wonder how that is to be understood.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars STUNNING MUSIC, 29 May 2011
By 
G. C. Smith - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Savitri,7 Part Songs, Choral Hymns from Rig Veda (Audio CD)
Holst's music for the human voice is marvellous. I suspect it is for many less well known than some of the orchestral pieces. If you who want to try the non-Planets Holst look no further than this disc which contains excellent music excellently sung. If I had to pick one piece it would be 'The Evening Watch' to words by Henry Vaughan, but it's all great and inspiring music. Enjoy!
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Savitri,7 Part Songs, Choral Hymns from Rig Veda
Savitri,7 Part Songs, Choral Hymns from Rig Veda by Ellis/Baker/Tear/Purcell Singers/English C.O. (Audio CD - 2013)
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