4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
I had never heard either of these works before, but was intrigued by a review in Gramophone magazine, which cited the Choral Symphony as "...surely Holst's greatest work". Having heard this recording, I am surprised that there aren't more recordings and performances of these two works - which make a complimentary pair, both being based on poetry - the Mystic Trumpeter uses one by Walt Whitman and the Choral Symphony takes the text from various of John Keats' works.
The Mystic Trumpeter is all about the soprano soloist and Susan Gritton is excellent in the high and demanding part written - while the brass accompany very well throughout in swirling tempos and it all seems to be over very quickly. Too quickly if anything, so it's a welcome relief, that after this mercurial work, there is an hour of similar music still to come. In fact the Mystic Trumpeter acts like an hors d'oeuvre before the main course of the symphony.
Like a conventional symphony there are 4 main movements - but these are subdivided further with the different texts used and there is a short prelude. After this initial Invocation to Pan from the chorus, we are into an exchange between solo viola and soprano, which is both reminiscent of Vaughan Williams' pastoral works and harks back to the Mystic Trumpeter.
The sound here is beautifully captured in the recording, which is excellent throughout. The dynamic range is very wide and we go from solo singers or instrumentalists, to vast sounds including the choir and orchestra. At its peak this is supplemented by huge organ pedal sounds that vibrate through the floor - incredibly impressive. Orchestration is varied and unusual - the Bacchanalian revelry is accompanied by a silvery-sounding array of tuned percussion and you can tell this is the composer of the Planets.
Choral writing is also unusual and the harmonies sound quite distinctive, adding immensely to the overall texture and emotional pull of the work. The scherzo is polytonal and whirls about you in strange rhythms. The finale reaches an early peak - then fades away calmly after a reprise from solo soprano to a peaceful coda, in some ways reminiscent of Bax's symphonies.
Overall there is a huge amount to enjoy here and I'm sure there can't be better a recording quality than this. I have to agree with Jeremy Dibble in Gramophone, when he said : "This is a musical treat which is a must for any lover of Holst and the British choral tradition."
on 27 December 2014
The Choral Symphony consists of settings of Keats such as Ode to a Grecian Urn. It is not a choral symphony that ends with a loud lively conclusion but the work's structure is quite user friendly. The opening Prelude and rapt first section with a wonderful viola solo, as good as Vaughan Williams, lead to a riotous setting of Bacchanal. This is followed by the slow movement Ode to a Grecian Urn. The Scherzo Fancy and Folly's Song are treated to an exhuberant settings and a mercurial touch. The Finale's brief solemn slow marches lead to dramatic contrasts in mood. The work's still ending leaves the listener well fulfilled. A lot of care has been put into recording this well structured work of great beauty and contrasts of colour. It makes a terrific impact. The sound also is terrific. The CD also includes The Mystic Trumpeter, an early work in late nineteen century style but with some traits of the later Holst.
2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 25 December 2013
I have had pleasure to enjoy spine tingling Chandos sound many times in last couple years. For example violin concertos by Prokofiev and Bartok Ehnes playing. This was my second CD of Holst series. Music in this CD is completely new to me and Im positively surprised. Music has beauty and grandeur. But why oh WHY must Chandos make this terribly abnormal dynamic again (like my other Holst CD by Chandos) !!? This is surely not normal dynamic. I have been hundreds of symphony concerts including couple of times Berlin Philharmonic. Never in concert have music have been so silent I cant hear it and never so loud that my ears feel pain ( I have good equipments). What is purpose of this you engineers (or you Davis?)? Doing great EFFECT? I dont understand. I have loved so many recordings by this BBC Symphony Orchestra and it may have practically be my favorite orchestra measured what I have listened and had pleasure last years (wonderful Gardner recordings Lutoslawski etc.). You in Chandos could do it so right!. I have so much waited BBC SO record Sibelius cycle, and read from Gramophone that it is coming with mach -14. After this record Im also afraid now. Vänskä/Lahti SO/BIS cycle are otherwise very good but it is spoit also this UNnatural dynamic phenomena (it is frustrating to listen adjushing volume all the time to hear and not break ears). And please dont spoil more wonderful recordings this way! I want to enjoy recordings and music making by top artists!