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Gustav Theodore Holst (1874-1934)

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Holst & Vaughan Williams - Choral Music

Holst & Vaughan Williams - Choral Music


Holst:

Ave Maria, H49, Op. 9b

The Evening-watch, H159

This have I done for my true love, H128, Op. 34 No. 1

Nunc dimittis, H127

Sing me the men

Four Part-Songs

Vaughan Williams:

Five English Folksongs

Valiant for Truth

O vos omnes

O Taste and See

The Souls of the Righteous

Three Shakespeare Songs

The Turtle Dove


The Finzi Singers, Paul Spicer

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Chandos - CHAN9425

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Holst: Orchestral Works

Holst: Orchestral Works


Holst:

A Fugal Overture, H151 Op. 40 No. 1

A Somerset Rhapsody, Op.21 No. 2

Scherzo for Orchestra, H192

Egdon Heath, a homage to Thomas Hardy, Op.47

Hammersmith - Prelude and Scherzo, H178, Op. 52

Capriccio, edited Imogen Holst


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Chandos - CHAN9420

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Holst: Orchestral Works

Holst: Orchestral Works


Holst:

A Fugal Overture, H151 Op. 40 No. 1

A Somerset Rhapsody, Op.21 No. 2

Scherzo for Orchestra, H192

Egdon Heath, a homage to Thomas Hardy, Op.47

Hammersmith - Prelude and Scherzo, H178, Op. 52

Capriccio, edited Imogen Holst


This 1994 Holst collection is another recording with the London Symphony Orchestra under its then Associate Guest Conductor, Richard Hickox.

Re-issued at ‘classic Chandos’ price, it is a must-have for any fan of or newcomer to Holst, offering both familiar and unfamiliar works. Gramophone complimenting Hickox’s ‘sweetly expressive, songful manner’ and adding that ‘Hickox and the LSO make a spirited showing... the Chandos engineering is typically sumptuous throughout.’

Richard Hickox returned to Holst in 2007, embarking on a new series, with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. He was recording what would have been the second volume of this survey when he was suddenly taken ill. Though that disc now will never be finished, the first instalment was released in January 2009 on SACD (CHSA5069) and seen as a recording triumph, presenting neglected works advocated by a legendary conductor.

“Punchy, in-your-face accounts, in turbo charged sound.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2016 ***

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Chandos Classics - The Hickox Legacy - CHAN10911X

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Holst: Orchestral Works Volume 1

Holst: Orchestral Works Volume 1


Holst:

The Morning of the Year, Op. 45 No. 2

The Lure

The Golden Goose, Op. 45 No. 1

The Perfect Fool, Op. 39/H 150: Ballet Music


The first disc of what was projected to be a cycle, cut tragically short by the recent death of Richard Hickox, one of the foremost exponents of British music.

The Planets is at the heart of the English repertoire, yet much of Holst’s orchestral output is unjustly neglected. This series will demonstrate that Holst was a composer of great inventiveness. Volume 1 offers three rarely recorded works, the ballets The Lure (its first time to CD), The Golden Goose and The Morning of the Year, alongside the more familiar Ballet from the one-act opera The Perfect Fool, long recognised as one of Holst’s most successful small-scale works.

The Golden Goose and The Morning of the Year are known as ‘choral ballets’. The Golden Goose was composed for Morley College, where Holst had been Director of Music since 1907, and was intended for amateurs. The ballet is based on the Grimms’ fairy tale of the Princess who had never been able to laugh. The Morning of the Year was the first work to be commissioned by the BBC Music Department, and so is an altogether more serious affair and dedicated to the English Folk Dance Society. This is one of Holst’s most impressive fusions of folk music with his own style, and has no need of the stage to make its full impact.

The Lure shares some of the same origins with the Perfect Fool ballet. The music was written in 1918 as incidental music for a play called The Sneezing Charm by Clifford Bax but at the time it was performed neither as a ballet nor as an orchestral piece. Frustrated by the lack of performance, Holst eventually withdrew the work from his list of compositions. Based on a Northumbrian folk tune, it is lively and powerful, and typical of the composer.

Holst had no desire to be predictable and if he has sometimes seemed to be eclipsed by his more gifted contemporaries he remains one of the most original and innovative musicians of the past century. This recorded survey is sure to shine new light on his neglected works and introduce a new audience to his orchestral music.

“Holst's distinctive sound is carefully manicured in this recording; the rapid "mercurial" passages of string-and wind-writing of The Perfect Fool are delivered with exemplary crispness and vitality…” Gramophone Magazine, February 2009

“The only other recording of these ballets [The Golden Goose, The Morning of the Year] apart from ones of Imogen Holst's collations - is Hilary Davan Wetton's for Hyperion (1995), coupled with the much earlier and less inspiring choral ballard King Estmere. Hickos makes much the better case for them, with more spacious and lively conducting, fine playing and a more focused and animated chorus.” BBC Music Magazine, February 2009 ****

“Though our modern age continues to extol ThePlanets as most archetypal of its composer, this recording of music written and completed during the 1920s serves only to reiterate that Holst's musical purview was much broader, and while he never enjoyed recognition for his ballet music (with the exception perhaps of The Perfect Fool as an orchestral suite), his originality rarely faltered.
All the works featured here – a 'must' for all Holst fans – reveal how he built steadily on the experimental paradigms of The Planets with an orchestral technique second-to-none, 'naked' (as Vaughan Williams once described) in its exposed, gossamer textures.
Holst's distinctive sound is carefully manicured in this recording; the rapid 'mercurial' passages of string- and wind-writing of The PerfectFool are delivered with exemplary crispness and vitality; the superimposed fourth harmonies of the unfamiliar The Lure, which develop mysterious bitonal 'saturnine' textures, look forward to the composer's unaccompanied choral masterpiece The Evening Watch as well as the desolate landscape of Egdon Heath, while the two choral ballets, The Golden Goose and The Morningof the Year (the former being weaker in quality) ebb and flow between Jovian elation and the more bizarre neo-classicism hinted at in 'Uranus' and the strange modernist textures of the later Choral Fantasia. Hickox certainly brings an electric appeal to these little-known, pointillistic scores as does the more finely tuned sense of ensemble between mystical voices and orchestra.
Perhaps the most compelling item on this disc, however, is The Lure which gives us a 'reworking' of The Perfect Fool but with a different climactic outcome derived from the warmer timbres and harmonies of the Ode to Death.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - February 2009

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Chandos Holst Orchestral Works - CHSA5069

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Holst: Orchestral Works Volume 2

Holst: Orchestral Works Volume 2


Holst:

The Planets, Op. 32

Japanese Suite, Op. 33

Beni Mora, Op. 29 No. 1


BBC Philharmonic & Manchester Chamber Choir, Sir Andrew Davis

That The Planets occupies a place at the heart of the English musical repertoire is indisputable, yet much of Holst’s orchestral output is unjustly neglected. Chandos’ series demonstrates that Holst was a composer whose inventiveness and originality was not limited to one work. The series was originally to be conducted by Richard Hickox who sadly passed away in 2009 after completing Volume 1, released to great critical acclaim. Gramophone stated that ‘Richard Hickox’s final project, reviving little-known Holst works, is a triumph’. In this second volume, exclusive Chandos artist Sir Andrew Davis has taken the baton, conducting the BBC Philharmonic in a unique programme: The Planets, Holst’s orchestral tour de force, as well as two comparative rarities in the concert hall, the Japanese Suite and Beni Mora.

Holst wrote all three works between 1909 and 1916, years which span the most important developments in his composing life as he moved away from the Wagner-influenced works of his youth. He had already begun to absorb English folk music, largely through the influences of his close friend Vaughan Williams, and that, together with his study of Sanskrit literature, led him to experiment with new and unique fusions in his music.

The Japanese Suite was originally intended for dancing, and composed at the request of a Japanese dancer, Michio Ito, who supplied Holst with most of the themes in a somewhat unorthodox manner – by whistling them to him. Although the music may seem as characteristic of Holst himself as of anything readily identifiable as Japanese, this work clearly demonstrates a refreshing openness to new influences, which few of his contemporaries shared.

Beni Mora is inspired by ethnic music that Holst heard on a trip to Algeria. Its orientalism may seem very westernised to those familiar with the original music, but it reflects his own experiences of the place – ‘a mix of East and West where one moment he saw an Arab woman leaving a mosque and another moment he saw an advertisement for American Cinematography’. The work was premiered in London in 1912, to the distaste of one critic who exclaimed, ‘We didn’t ask for Biskra girls’. Vaughan Williams later wrote that if the piece had been played in Paris instead of London, Holst would have gained fame a good ten years before The Planets made him a household name. One of the more remarkable musical points about the piece is found in the third movement, which is based on a motif played by a bamboo flutist whom Holst heard on the streets in Algeria. The flutist played the same four notes for hours. This experience is vividly recalled in the movement, yet the mastery of Holst's harmonic texture prevents the motif from becoming tiresome. Beni Mora is regarded as Holst’s first mature orchestral piece.

The immense popularity of The Planets, and the familiarity of the music, means that its originality is often overlooked. But while it is possible to point to a number of contemporary works which clearly had an influence on Holst (Debussy’s Nocturnes, Stravinsky’s The Firebird etc.), the sheer inventiveness and diversity of the music are entirely his own, as he takes us on an unforgettable journey from the violence of ‘Mars’, through the serene calm of ‘Venus’ and the remote and otherworldly ‘Neptune’.

“"Saturn" stands out for its remorseless tread, ominously tangible tubular bells and magnificently built climax...["Uranus"'s] unnervingly bleak coda and the first half of "Neptune" are perceptively handled” Gramophone Magazine, March 2011

“'Mars', one of his best performances, is quite fast, rigidly controlled, frighteningly bleak and with a cold sound...Even the terrific climax, with ffff organ chords, has a barren quality to it...'Venus' sounds cool, even melancholy rather than peaceful after 'Mars'. 'Uranus' is splendidly done, with a harsh brass opening and a spooky delicacy in the hopping rhythms.” International Record Review, March 2011

“[Beni Mora] offers opportunities that this team seizes wonderfully, as one gorgeous woodwind solo after another deftly conjures the composer's exotic surroundings...Davis's approach to The Planets goes for no-nonsense directness rather than sonic gross-out...Mercury, the Winged Messenger scintillates, while the strange, remote sounds of Neptune, The Mystic are hauntingly captured.” Classic FM Magazine, April 2011 *****

“Davis's new performance takes off with 'Saturn': this may not match the sense of weariness Boult conveys, but its inexorable progress is highly effective, and the bells for once sound as if they've been hit by something metallic to alrming effect. 'Uranus, the Magician' is done with an infectious sense of showmanship, while the miraculous shades and textures of 'Neptune' are beautifully caught in the recording.” BBC Music Magazine, April 2011 ***

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Chandos Holst Orchestral Works - CHSA5086

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Holst: Orchestral Works Volume 3

Holst: Orchestral Works Volume 3


Holst:

The Mystic Trumpeter, Op. 18

First Choral Symphony, Op. 41, H155

with BBC Symphony Chorus


This is our third CD devoted to orchestral works by Gustav Holst. The series was inaugurated by Richard Hickox who sadly passed away in 2009 after having completed only Volume 1. Fortunately, Chandos was able to secure the services of its exclusive artist the acclaimed conductor Sir Andrew Davis for the second volume. Now Sir Andrew turns to The Mystic Trumpeter and the First Choral Symphony, this time conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and the Grammy-nominated soprano Susan Gritton. Composed originally in 1904 and revised in 1912, The Mystic Trumpeter received only two performances in Holst’s lifetime, and it was not revived until 1980. Holst based the work on a poem from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, and the influence of Hindu thought is clearly present throughout. Holst drafted the First Choral Symphony in 1923. The work received a mixed reception at the time, to some extent provoked by the highly varied and non-sequential choice of texts, all by Keats. The poetic variety is reflected in a score full of extremes of contrast. Holst himself said of this Symphony: ‘I think the work as a whole is the best thing I have written.’

“though beautifully shaped by Davis, Gritton and the BBC Symphony Chorus, it's not the unconvincingly structured and overlong symphony...but [The The Mystic Trumpeter] that makes the bigger impression...Gritton sings it ravishingly, too.” The Guardian, 17th October 2013 ****

“the chief asset...is soprano Susan Gritton's unaffected engagement with Holst's bright-eyed and full-hearted response to Whitman. Andrew Davis conducts a warm and idiomatic account.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2013 ****

“This is surely Holst's greatest work. Andrew Davis is fast becoming the most incisive and authoritative interpreter of British music and this wonderful recording is testimony...This is a musical treat which is a must for any lover of Holst and the British choral tradition.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2013

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Chandos Holst Orchestral Works - CHSA5127

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Holst: St. Paul's Suite, Brook Green Suite, Double Concerto & other orchestral works

Holst: St. Paul's Suite, Brook Green Suite, Double Concerto & other orchestral works


Holst:

Double Concerto, Op. 49

Andrew Watkinson, Nicholas Ward (violins)

Two Songs without Words, Op. 22

Lyric Movement

Stephen Tees (viola)

Brook Green Suite

A Fugal Concerto, H152 Op. 40 No. 2

Duke Dobing (flute), Christopher Hooker (oboe)

St Paul's Suite, Op. 29 No. 2


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Chandos - CHAN9270

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Holst: The Cloud Messenger, A Choral Fantasia, 7 Partsongs & other choral works

Holst: The Cloud Messenger, A Choral Fantasia, 7 Partsongs & other choral works


Holst:

The Cloud Messenger, H111

The Hymn of Jesus, H140

Ave Maria, H49, Op. 9b

The Evening-watch, H159

Seven Part-songs, H162

A Choral Fantasia, H177

A Dirge for Two Veterans, H121

Ode to Death, H144

This have I done for my true love, H128, Op. 34 No. 1

Four Part-songs


Della Jones (mezzo-soprano), Susanna Spicer (alto), Mark Milhofer (tenor), Patricia Rozario (soprano)

London Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Chorus, Finzi Singers, Joyful Company of Singers, City of London Sinfonia, Finzi Singers, Richard Hickox, Paul Spicer

“The Cloud Messenger is a 43-minute work of considerableimaginative power. Before its previoussingle-issue release it had been virtually forgottensince its disastrous premiere under Holst'sbaton in 1913. It shows the composer alreadyworking on an epic scale-–-something that castslight on the subsequent eruption of The Planets.It's marvellous to have the work on disc, though,as you might expect, it's uneven. Those whoadmire the ascetic rigour of his later music mayshare Imogen Holst's reservations, and find thescore disappointingly 'backward'. There arecertainly echoes of Vaughan Williams's A SeaSymphony and several older models. On theother hand, the glittering approach to the sacredcity on Mount Kailasa and the stylised orientalismof the climactic dance are new to Britishmusic; another world, that of 'Venus', is foreshadowedin the closing pages.One of the few incontrovertible masterpiecesin Holst's output, the familiar Hymn of Jesus hasseldom received a better performance on disc.The choral singing itself is splendidly crisp, butthe lively acoustic can blunt the impact ofHolst's acerbic harmonies.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

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Chandos 241 - CHAN241-6

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Holst: The Wandering Scholar

Holst: The Wandering Scholar


Holst:

Suite de Ballet, Op. 10

A Song of the Night, Op. 19 No. 1

Lesley Hatfield (violin)

The Wandering Scholar, Op. 50

Ingrid Attrot (soprano), Neill Archer (tenor), Alan Opie (baritone), Donald Maxwell (bass)


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Chandos - CHAN9734

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Holst: The Wandering Scholar

Holst: The Wandering Scholar


Holst:

The Wandering Scholar, Op. 50

Ingrid Attrot (soprano), Neill Archer (tenor), Alan Opie (baritone) & Donald Maxwell (bass)

Suite de Ballet, Op. 10

A Song of the Night, Op. 19 No. 1

Lesley Hatfield (violin)


This re-release of the Suite de Ballet, A Song of the Night, and The Wandering Scholar by Gustav Holst forms part of the new Hickox Legacy commemorative series on Chandos Records, leading up to (and continuing beyond) the fifth anniversary, in Nov 2013, of the conductor's untimely death. The recording is released on the Classic Chandos label at Mid Price.

Both the Suite de Ballet (1899) and A Song of the Night (1903) are early works. The Suite de Ballet is light music, expertly written and colourfully scored. It brings to mind the works of Edward German and Sir Arthur Sullivan, but also glances in the direction of French composers, at Chabrier in ‘Danse rustique’ and Saint-Saëns in ‘Scène de nuit’. In A Song of the Night Holst demonstrates confident and imaginative writing for solo violin. He left no clues as to the specific meaning of the song, but at the time of writing he was deeply immersed in learning Sanskrit, and his enthusiasm for Indian mythology may well have inspired the work.

Through her collection Mediaeval Latin Lyrics and her book The Wandering Scholars, Helen Waddell (1889 – 1965) exercised considerable influence on British music in the 1930s, and her translations have been set to music by many composers, Holst being one of them. The Wandering Scholar (1929 – 30) is a one-act comic chamber opera featuring just four characters, and no chorus. Holst uses modest orchestral forces; there are no big numbers, no set-pieces, and no overture. It is a simple rural tale, told simply, with original music that suggests (but is not actual) folk music. The premiere performance took place in 1934, but Holst was too ill to attend, and died soon after, before he had the chance to review any of the details over which he had felt uncertain as he was composing the work. In 1968, his daughter Imogen Holst and her friend Benjamin Britten edited the score in order to address some of Holst's earlier concerns.

BBC Music Magazine wrote of the disc: ‘Holst’s Chaucer-like farce [The Wandering Scholar] comes up freshly minted in this lively recording… the couplings reveal Holst in light-music and Romantic modes, respectively, and throughout Hickox inspires some full-blooded music-making.’

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Chandos Classics - The Hickox Legacy - CHAN10725X

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