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3.7 out of 5 stars
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3.7 out of 5 stars
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I have been gradually collecting Tony Palmer's films about various musical heroes of mine, and that for Holst (produced in 2011) is one of his best, despite (or because of?) the many financial difficulties he had to contend with in making it.

From the Cotswolds to Hammersmith, and from Latvia to the Sahara, Palmer manages to evoke the essence of many of the places associated with Holst, but even including India and China. One must, like many other reviewers, query Palmer's use of footage of Nazi concentration camps in some opening scenes, but overall there is a judicious mix of archive and modern footage, interspersed with performances of many of his works.

It is good to hear extracts from little-known works in a variety of genres (bar opera and chamber music), although it is a shame that there is no extract from his Choral Symphony. I was a little disappointed to see Palmer using (presumably) stock footage of the Scottish hills to illustrate a totally different kind of landscape, i.e. Wessex's Egdon Heath; and that he uses a film of the planet Jupiter to illustrate `Neptune' from the Planets. But these are minor quibbles.

I would think that more time in the film is given over to Holst's music than to his tale (maybe 55:45), and that's no bad thing in this instance, with some meaty extracts proffered for our consideration, mostly to positive effect. (It's nice to see Tamas Vasary still conducting with strength.) As regards Holst's tale, his life (unlike his music) is told within a broad chronological framework.

By far the most interesting commentators in the story are Imogen Holst herself (although the review in the BBC Music Magazine seemed to imply that some of the words purportedly spoken by her when she was not herself on screen were done by another) and music critic Stephen Johnson. Indeed, it is a shame that Johnson's critical guide to the Planets is not expanded and included as an extra.

The performances are commendatory with an excellent Royal College of Music Orchestra, but the film also features many music groups around Britain and from around the world. I did wonder why Palmer chose to play `I Vow to Thee My Country' so much, when Holst hated the words that had been attached to his music, but it was very apt that the film itself ends on the original orchestral version.
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on 13 November 2015
Like all Tony Palmer films, interesting and informative and a great insight into Holst and his fascinating politics and horror at patriotism and establishment ethics. I too am a socialist. I wish someone could tell me where I can find the enchanting track at the end by the Children's choir of Taipei - It must be out there somewhere but I cannot find it??? Please help if you can?
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on 21 January 2013
I saw this first on TV, probably BBC4, and was completely won over. My son used to live in Thaxted, where Holst also lived, and so that was an attraction of a sort; but I wanted to know more about the man. I fund out quite a ibt. He was a marvelous composer and has left behind much beauty for us. If you like Holst and would like to know him a little more, buy this. You won't be sorry.
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on 11 October 2013
A typical Tony Palmer film, always interesting in its approach, and a very interesting subject.
Well worth watching to gain more insight into a musican's and composer's life and mind!
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on 11 March 2014
Holst was a great inventor of his own musical world. When you experience it, it is on his terms and you must accept them.
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on 6 January 2014
MUCH INFORMATION ON A COMPOSER WHO DESERVES A HIGHER PROFILE IN THE WORLD OF MUSIC.a MUST FOR ANYONE WISHING TO LEARN MORE ON HIS LIFE OR MUSIC
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on 18 December 2014
Like most of Tony Palmer's films this does not take a strictly chronological approach - but it gives a real sense of Holst and what might have motivated/inspired him.
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on 10 March 2013
The film is touted as 16:9, but the best bits,the archival film,including the wonderful Imogen,are actually 4:3 stretched to fit 16:9. In other words, distorted! So, one is constantly grabbing the "remote" to put this right.
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on 13 March 2015
Fantastic!
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on 26 April 2013
I had heard it before, and wanted to have my own personal copy to play whenver I like. It is an interesting work, and well worth listening to.
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