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A kaliedoscope of continuous invention
on 13 September 2007
Never has there been a more unjust one hit wonder than Gustav Holst. For 90 years the Planets Suite has filled concert halls and provided orchestras and record companies with an easy money spinner. But there is so much more to this composer.
Here Naxos treats us to an hour's worth of his works for chamber and string orchestras, showing sides to his muse that are not even hinted at in the Planets. I first heard many of these pieces on a trusty old Lyrita LP where they were conducted by Gustav's daughter Imogen. She was no mean composer herself and sought to preserve her fathers music as he would have wished, but I have to say I prefer the way these compositions are treated here. In place of the dry unemotional style she demanded from the English Chamber Orchestra, the English Sinfonia under the baton of Howard Griffiths give these works more vibrant and romantic renditions. They also show themselves to be the better players.
The Brook Green and St Paul's Suites were written by Holst for the school orchestra at St Paul's Girls School where he taught. They are lively folk songs influenced works. The Brook Green Suite, with 3 movements clocking in at 6 minutes is a model of economy.
A Song of the Night for Violin and Orchestra and the Lyric Movement for Viola and Chamber Orchestra are both major works despite their short lengths. There romantic depths are revealed in this recording, as is their rich and powerful orchestration despite the small forces used. Here is a composer that really does make every note tell.
A Fugal Concerto is a pocket sized delight. The first movement is a light footed dance through the countryside that would make the perfect theme tune for a between the wars period drama serial. The slow movement then delves back to the baroque, weaving a wistful air before dance and air intertwine in the final movement.
Finally there is the Concerto for Two Violins and Orchestra in which all the threads of Holst's post Planets composing intertwine. It is full of beautiful moments, delicate, then vibrant, then searching, then - - - . It is a kaleidoscope of continuous invention.
So - another richly rewarding release from Naxos.