- The Mystical Gustav Holst [Recommended Recordings]
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Gustav Holst
Recommended Recordings

"Never compose anything unless the not composing of it becomes a positive nuisance to you."

Beni Mora, Somerset Rhapsody, etc
(Timothy Hugh; Scottish National Orchestra; David Lloyd-Jones, conductor)
There is much more to Holst than The Planets, and the music gathered on this excellently played and recorded disc gives you some of his very best orchestral music at a budget price. If you're a Planets fan, then the next logical piece to try is Beni Mora, a luscious Oriental rhapsody in three movements that reveals the same interest in rhythm and orchestral color that characterizes it's more famous astrological big brother. Holst considered Egdon Heath (a symphonic poem after Thomas Hardy) to be his best piece, and it's certainly one of his most evocative--a study in bleakness and silence very much like Debussy's Nuages (Clouds) from the Nocturnes. In short, there's a lot of fine music to discover here, and at the price it's a low risk investment. (review by David Hurwitz)

Holst: The Wandering Scholar
(Ingrid Attrot; Neill Archer; Northern Sinfonia; Richard Hickox, conductor)
The latest disc from Chandos featuring the music of Gustav Holst seems to pluck works from his entire career. It's a fine offering, featuring the light "Suite de Ballet" of 1899, the comic operetta "The Wandering Scholar" from the '30s, and "A Song of the Night" (1905)--the composer's last orchestral work before he delved into folk song. As always, Richard Hickox delivers strong performances, especially on "The Wandering Scholar."

St Paul's Suite, etc
(Duke Dobing, Christopher Hooker, et al; City of London Sinfonia; Richard Hickox, conductor)
Listeners who know only The Planets have a very incomplete appreciation of Gustav Holst. Most of these works were written for student orchestras. They are tuneful, folk-flavored, and highly imaginative, not aiming far beyond entertainment but achieving that goal admirably. The variety or scoring makes this succession of relatively brief pieces work well as a program, and the performances are quite sensible, with vigorous rhythms and a fine sound from the little orchestra--probably much finer than Holst heard when they were new. Add excellent recorded sound and you've got a winner. (review by Leslie Gerber)

The Planets
(Montreal Symphony Orchestra; Charles Dutoit, conductor)
In the CD's liner notes, novelist Ethan Canin's analysis of Holst's The Planets describes the composition to be the source material for most of the great cinema's scores. It's a fact he learned from his father--a violinist who left the San Francisco Symphony to pursue Hollywood studio work and kept referring back to The Planets as a source of inspiration. Holst's work--a composition for each planet in the solar system minus Earth and Pluto--was considered revolutionary in 1916 and it still sounds convincing today. Mars, the Bringer of War is a violent work that deserves a place in any sci-fi shoot out, while Mercury, the Winged Messenger is pure pastoral impressionism. Filled with moodswings and folk influences, Holst created a classic--a musical portrait of astrology eight decades before the term "new age" was infused into our vocabulary. This recording, featuring Charles Dutoit conducting the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal, is a keeper. The orchestra's mastery of Holst is apparent throughout, especially on more powerful cuts, such as Mars and Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity. (reviewed by Jason Verlinde)


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