17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Early Holstian treasure,
This review is from: Holst: Cotswolds Symphony / Walt Whitman Overture / A Winter Idyll / Japanese Suite / Indra (Audio CD)
This enjoyable release, superlatively played by the Ulster Orchestra under a conductor who is (in my opinion) one of the finest working today, wins another gold star for Naxos's adventurous recording policy - not to mention the company's sheer excellence in recording quality (here under producer Tim Handley). Where would we be without Naxos?
Coming to the music, apart from the spare, mysterious yet masterfully orchestrated Japanese Suite Op.33, none of it is mature Holst. Yet all of it is of interest, for itself as much as for Holst aficionados, and much of it lodges in the memory. This isn't the first-ever complete recording of the 'Cotswolds Symphony' Op.8, but it is far and away the best, making musical sense to a degree which should lead us to revalue the work's merit: after a rather perfunctory first movement, the three which follow (the slow movement, a Wagnerian 'Elegy to William Morris', counterweighted by a pristine, breezy scherzo and warmly melodic allegro-finale) are increasingly substantial. We can almost hear the young composer finding his audible feet - to mix my metaphors thoroughly!
The 'Walt Whitman Overture' and 'Winter Idyll' are even earlier works, but in their briefer compass even more assured than the Symphony. Most substantial of all the romantic early works here is the Symphonic Poem 'Indra', one of the first of Holst's Hindu-inspired works, and with its sweeping grandeur and evocative atmosphere not the least memorable of them.
The 'Japanese Suite' itself was beautifully done on a Lyrita recording by Sir Adrian Boult in the 1970's, but if anything JoAnn Falletta makes it hang together better than her masterly predecessor: it sounds more substantial, closer to the mystic-beautiful world of 'The Planets' than in Boult's sparer version.
Don't hesitate - there's over an hour here of thoroughly absorbing music, much of which significantly extends our appreciation of perhaps our still most underrated Great British Composer.