Matthews hits the right note for Holst
Simon Barrow | Exeter, United Kingdom | 06/17/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The recordings of Gustav Holst's 'Planets' are legion. Amazon has over 100 listings. Numerous too are the lesser composers who have aped the conventions of 'Mars' and 'Jupiter', in particular, to make themselves a fast buck out of writing film scores. Now, heaven help us, we have a toy classics-lite ensemble named after this well-known suite. In the midst of all this popularity it is easy to forget just what a quality work 'The Planets' is. This excellent new edition from Naxos, marking their fifteen years as a high selling classical label, provides an excellent stimulus to the memory. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra gives a fine account of itself in its rich, enthusiastic, but never overbearing approach to the score. This should not surprise us, because they are lead in their endeavours by composer Colin Matthews. He has more reason than most to have given Holst's most famous work detailed attention, since he bravely responded to a commission from Kent Negano and the Halle orchestra to write a sequel. His 'Pluto: The Renewer' is included on this disc, along with a stirring rendition of Holst's little known 'The Mystic Trumpeter' (opus 18), based on a poem by Walt Whitman. Clare Rutter (sop) does more than enough to convince us that this orchestral song is worth listening to again. What of Matthews' endeavours? The Halle first recorded and released 'Pluto' (named after the planet discovered in 1933, a year before Holst died) in 2001, on the Hyperion label. Comparisons with that disc are inevitable. Both are strong, but perhaps not surprisingly Matthews' own baton seems to bring a little greater clarity and contrast to his own composition. The RSNO's performance on 'Mars' and 'Venus' is also much more wilful than that of the Halle, and they match up well to each other on the more meditative movements and sequences too. Opinion will obviously be divided, but I think Matthews has written a sequel of compelling authority and vision. He segues his composition out of the embers of 'Neptune', picking up its mystical resonance before moving us towards a couple of dissonant climaxes. The conclusion too his piece is mesmerising. There are plenty of Holstian references in this 6 minute 42 second score, but Matthews does not try straightforwardly to 'write Holst'. He is his own man. His piece blends in well with the other Planets - as becomes more apparent on successive listenings to the whole refigured work. But it does not mimic. Its language is inventive, such that only those who feel the need to render modern in inverted commas when they use it as an epithet to music are likely to miss the point. The Halle give the nervous or traditional listener the 'proper' ending to Holst's suite as well as Matthews' addendum, in case they want to re-programme their CD player accordingly. Naxos and the RSNO go that natural step further by integrating the two without qualification, and they also provide us with a first-rate account of that Holst 'scena' for soprano and orchestra too. A milestone that deserves high praise. My advice would be to get both versions. Then try out some of Matthews' other orchestral works on the 1996 Collins Classic recording, which includes 'Hidden Variables', 'Memorial', 'Quatrain' and 'Machines And Dreams'."
CD & DVD AUDIO: Familiar, Hearty Planets w rarity Trumpeter
Dan Fee | Berkeley, CA USA | 07/04/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Is there any orchestra music lover anywhere, who has not yet heard the planets? I have for long, long years cherished the several versions recorded at one time or another by the late Sir Adrian Boult - who premiered the work - but the new Naxos version with the Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by David Lloyd-Jones, need not suffer from hallowed comparisons. Perhaps one starts out with this music, revelling in the large moments, rhythmed and swelling and soaring; only to later linger more and more often into musing about the brilliant innovations of the composer's use of the orchestra, along with less of the riot of life and more of the fading away into unfathomable, mysterious regions. In any case, the new CD ... and the new multichannel DVD audio disc release, even more so ... gives plenty to relish on both counts. While the 16-bit CD is bright and wide and clear; the dvd audio disc is multichannel and yields up that much more of everything except distortion. Particularly in dvd audio, often also available at a bargain Naxos price, one senses the care Holst seems to have lavished upon the orchestration of this musical extravaganza. He goes Berlioz and Rimsky-Korsakov one better, as it were, uniting his musical ideas with the very timbres of the solos and orchestra sections which play them. This must have been almost unbearably striking in 1916, so close on the heels of the riot that premiered Stravinky's Rite of Spring in Paris, just a few years earlier. That the disk finishes with a genuine first, the recording of Holst's Mystic Trumpeter scena for soprano and orchestra, only reminds a listener once again that Naxos can lead the pack when it wants to do so. Bravo, again. Highly recommended for sound, performance, and repertoire. Put this right next to Sir Adrian Boult, on the keeper shelves. Yes, keeper. And if you have one of those fancy surround sound, home theater setups handy, put on the compatible dvd audio/dolby pressing to celebrate just how much music a good multichannel system can put out, in between those movies."
BEST NAXOS ENGINEERING & PERFORMANCE
Ryan Kouroukis | Toronto, Ontario Canada | 01/11/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm incredibly impressed on the engineering on these recordings! Not only that but the interpretations are startling! Right up there with Steinberg and the Boston Symphony!
This little naxos disc is often a reference recording of the Planets I use when showcasing them to friends.
The great thing about this disc is that it includes the new composition of the mysterious and enigmatic "Pluto, The Renewer" by Colin Matthews and ends with a great conclusion of Holst's Wagnerian Tone Poem "The Mystic Trumpeter", with words by Walt Whitman for orchestra and soprano.
Five Stars and 8 Planets!"