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Holst: Choral Symphony; Choral Fantasia
Gustav Holst, Hilary Davan Wetton, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Holst: Choral Symphony; Choral Fantasia
Genre: Classical
 

     
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CD Details

All Artists: Gustav Holst, Hilary Davan Wetton, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, John Birch, Lynne Dawson
Title: Holst: Choral Symphony; Choral Fantasia
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Hyperion UK
Release Date: 3/12/2002
Album Type: Import, Original recording reissued
Genre: Classical
Styles: Opera & Classical Vocal, Symphonies
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 034571151045
 

CD Reviews

Very Uneven Music by Holst
Eric S. Kim | Southern California | 01/22/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Gustav Holst is pretty much best known for his orchestral suite "The Planets". The "Mars" and "Jupiter" sequences are particularly famous and well-liked respectively. It's a tragedy, however, that his other works are not as well-known. His other orchestral pieces like "Edgon Heath" and "Hammersmith" should be heard by every Holst listener on the planet. His choral music such as "The Hymn of Jesus" and his massive epic "The Cloud Messenger" must not fade into oblivion, because they're beautiful and ethereal works to speak of.

With choral music, you can't go wrong with Holst. This "First Choral Symphony," however, is mostly weak. The composer based the text for this choral piece on poetry based on John Keats. The problem here is that the the text found in "Choral Symphony" are put in random order, meaning that they're all over the place. One sequence uses Keat's "Ode to a Grecian Urn", then in another sequence he uses "Hymn to Apollo", which is a totally unrelated poem. It would've been nice if Holst used a single large poem and have it the main text in "Choral Symphony".

The other problem here is the music. It reminded me of "The Cloud Messenger", but only for its mysticism. The harmony and melodies are considered a failure, at least to me. It sounds like Schoenberg having a fistfight with Tchaikovsky: there's an uneven mix of tonal and atonal harmonies throughout the piece. Bartok and other composers did this sort of thing very well, but here Holst didn't seem to have the perfect knowledge to create this sort of thing.

But it's all not a total loss: the musicians here make it all worthwhile. The Guildford Choral Society has done an extraordinary job with Holst's complex choral composition. The Royal Philharmonic have plenty of polish and panache that the piece requires. Hilary Davan Wetton does a very good job with keeping up with the score. Also on this CD is "A Choral Fantasia". It's not as good as Richard Hickox's rendition, but it's nice to hear it with more balance betweeen choir and orchestra.

I can see why "First Choral Symphony" wasn't successful at the time. In the liner notes, it says that "literary purists were offended by the juxtaposition of unrelated elements from Keats' poems," while music critics "accused Holst of not pouring enough debauchery into the Bacchanale". It's a shame that this piece ruined Holst's career. Nevertheless, we will still have his "Edgon Heath" and "Hmyn of Jesus" and, of course, his "Planets" to cherish.

Grade: C-"
Unusually fine performance and disc from HYPERION
Paul | Houston | 10/31/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"If you have a very high-end system (hopefully with MARTIN-LOGAN electrostatic speakers), you will experience a very wide and razor sharp detailed soundstage from this disc. The performance and engineering is spectacular. Its obvious that the conductor has an affection for this music as evidenced by the orchestras' impassioned performance. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED A+++++"