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VINE VOICEon 7 June 2012
This is an interesting collection of what will be to most of us lesser-known Holst. The Whitman overture which opens the CD is pleasant enough; maybe I was expecting something with a bit more depth, and the Cotswolds Symphony is an enjoyable piece, easy to listen to, with a darker slow movement. The Japanese Suite is highly enjoyable, Holst's orchestration reminding us of his Planets Suite. But the piece I found profoundly satisfying on this disc was 'Indra'; Holst was influenced by the poetry and philosophy of India and wrote 'Savitri', based on Indian poetry and also 'Hymns from the Rig Veda' (which are available on an Eloquence re-issue of an Argo recording). Indra is an Indian God, and Holst's music evokes something powerful, it's a piece quite different from the preceding works on the CD and I have returned to this a number of times.

The playing by the Ulster Orchestra is excellent, and JoAnn Falletta is clearly in total sympathy with the music. I must mention too the really excellent sound quality the Naxos team of Tim Handley and Phil Rowlands have given us; plenty of space and depth to the sound, a relief after hearing so many dry, close-miked recordings these days.

All credit to Naxos for making more fine British music recordings which would have been made by EMI and Decca, when those companies mattered.

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on 27 June 2012
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.
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on 5 February 2013
There has been a recording of the Cotswolds Symphony before by Munich Symphony Orchestra and Douglas Bostock for the Classico, however I have always thought it one of the least successful of the British Symphonic Collection for the label! I always thought that the Munich band sounded at best, a little out of sorts, and at worst under-prepared for the recording, so I have longed for a British recording of the work, well we are half way there with an American conductor!
From the opening bars of the Walt Whitman-Overture you get the sense that the Ulster Orchestra are at home with the music and this is the feeling throughout the whole disc. This recording of the overture may only be a few seconds quicker than Bostock recording, but it feels so much lighter and airy which gives you a sense of a faster tempo than it is.
When it comes to the Symphony Bostock take it at a quite ponderous tempo, over 4 minutes slower than Falletta, and the quicker tempo certainly suites the music. The quicker tempi almost make the symphony sound like a completely new work, where Bostock's recording of the symphony is something of a stodgy uninteresting work with little idea of what was to come, under Falletta you do get a greater sense of purpose as well as an inkling of the great works to follow.
This is followed by A Winter Idyll, which while sympathetic to his teacher, Stanford, also shows the influence of Wagner and especially Smetana. David Atherton's recording wins out here, mainly due to a wayward note in the brass in the Falletta.
Falletta has even stronger competition when it comes to the Japanese Suite, this time in the form of Adrian Boult. The work was composed while Holst was still composing The Planets and was originally intended as a suite of dances. The Suite was composed at the request of a Japanese dancer, Michio Ito, who provided Holst with the original tunes by whistling them to him. For me, Boult still reigns supreme, his years of working with the composer to hone his performances of his works really pays off, this is otherwise still a fine recording.
The final work on the disc is the symphonic poem Indra, a work inspired by those of Richard Strauss, it was shelved after Parry had heavily criticised the work after he had conducted a run through by students at the Royal College of Music, and subsequently it never received a public performance during Holst's lifetime. The work itself has always been a revelation to me, as though an early work, it shows a great deal of maturity and style with the occasional hint of the greatness to come. Atherton's recording of this works takes some beating, but Falletta seems to have the measure of the pieces, and offers us a spirited and very pleasing account.
With slight reservations this is a highly enjoyable disc and one which I find easy to recommend, and not just for the Cotswold Symphony!
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on 18 August 2012
Holst's other works are perhaps more widely known than the Cotswolds Symphony, one of his rarely performed pieces. The cover photo presents an idyllic scene which should go some way to attracting a wider audience and it is one of the reasons people pick up and buy CDs such as this. No harm in that. The other items on this CD also deserve attention, particularly so the Walt Whitman Overture: a lesson in technique. Technically this is a very good recording and the musical direction of the Ulster Orchestra is a joy to listen to. Well worth the recommendation and bought from Amazon UK.
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on 10 November 2012
The Tony Palmer DVD "In The Bleak Midwinter" featured among other pieces Holst's "Cotswold Symphony", a delightful masterpiece which is under-represented in the catalog - this recording remedies the omission. The CD opens with the exuberant 7 minutes of the "Walt Whitman Overture" which leads us into the signature work, Holst's Symphony in F, otherwise known as the Cotswold Symphony, which immediately follows the "Walt Whitman" in the list of Holst opus numbers. The first movement continues the same mood as the Walt Whitman; the second mood is more lyrical and mirrors both the pastoral feel of the Cotswolds and the strength of the underlying geography. The buoyant third movement expresses a more playful side of the Cotswolds, and the final movement finishes the symphony with a flourish. The rest of the CD contains the early work "A Winter Idyll" which is well worth a listen, the "Japanese Suite" and "Indra" which are both worth exploring. JoAnn Falletta and the Ulster Orchestra have done the world of Holst an immense favour by delightfully recording these gems of 20C music.
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on 22 November 2012
This is a fascinating release of works by Holst that were unknown to me prior to my purchase of this recording. It provokes, for me, the question of whether Holst had a unique style, for the composer of the 'Planets' is not much in evidence here.The second movement of the 'Cotswold Symphony' is a beautiful Elegy in memory of William Morris and the 'Winter Idyll' is a delightfully turbulent nine minute tone poem.All the music is tuneful and charming and we should all be very grateful to Naxos for its championing of lesser known and unusual repertory. The sound quality and playing is excellent.
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on 30 May 2012
I love Holst's music with a passion this side idolatry.
I have made musical pilgrimages to Cheltenham, Thaxted and Hammersmith.
I have sat through student productions of The Wandering Scholar and Savitri.
But even I have to admit that apart from the ten minutes of the delightful Japanese suite
there is little here that sounds like the real thing, the unique Holstian sound world I love.

Jo Ann Falletta and the Ulster Orchestra cannot be faulted
but this disc is interesting rather than enjoyable.
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on 8 December 2012
Holst is so much more than 'The Planet Suite'. I have many other Holst CDs and this is a well reproduced performance of several of his lesser known pieces.
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on 28 June 2012
The music on this CD is very well performed. Mostly early Holst with glimpses of the composers later mature style. Entertaining but not great music.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 August 2014
Beautiful and evocative music played to perfection with the Whitman Overture as a fascinating rarity that deserves greater exposure.
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