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Holst: Orchestral Works, Vol. 3 / Davis, BBC Symphony Orchestra & Chorus

Holst / Gritton / Bbc Symphony Orchestra / Davis
Release Date: 10/29/2013 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 5127   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Gustav Holst
Performer:  Susan GrittonCaroline Harrison
Conductor:  Sir Andrew Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony OrchestraBBC Symphony Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

HOLST The Mystic Trumpeter. First Choral Symphony 1 Andrew Davis, cond; Susan Gritton (s); 1 BBC S Ch; BBC SO CHANDOS 5127 (SACD: 69:20 Text and Translation)

I complain so often of the modern tendency towards over-reverberant sonics, particularly in Naxos and Chandos releases, that when the sound matches the mood of the music I am pleased to admit that it Read more works. In this disc, titled Holst Orchestral Works Vol. 3, the fine conductor Andrew Davis leads inspired performances by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and soprano Susan Gritton in two of Holst’s most interesting and appealing works for that combination.

The Mystic Trumpeter (1904, revised 1912) is described in the booklet as being in Wagnerian musical language, but evolved. Based on a poem by Walt Whitman, “From Noon to Starry Night,” it includes musical premonitions of The Planets , particularly “Neptune the Mystic.” The musical evolution also owes something to Richard Strauss, who Holst played under as a trombonist, but here Holst’s continuing musical growth is clear and fascinating from first note to last. It also has the trait in common with Debussy that every time the music reaches a climax, it pulls back shortly after and recedes. This ability of his to “cap the geyser,” so to speak, was to come to fruition in the next three decades of his life.

The First Choral Symphony, as the notes indicate, has a weakness only in the text setting of the Finale; otherwise this, too, is an outstanding work, and one deserving of greater exposure. Here, too, the mature Holst is able to maintain a spellbinding atmosphere at a consistently soft volume level, only occasionally opening up the sound to create brief climaxes. The orchestral texture is more varied, even in the fast sections of the music where a certain sameness might have been expected. There’s a touch of Britten in the later sections of this work—a possible influence on the younger composer? I make no claim for this, only a suggestion; make of it what you will. In any case, this is an excellent disc of truly excellent music.

Susan Gritton contributes a brief statement in the booklet recalling how she rehearsed these works under the late Richard Hickox, only to have that esteemed conductor die suddenly before the recordings could be completed. Under such circumstances, I’m sure that this project was a bittersweet one for her, but as I say, Andrew Davis has done himself—and Holst—proud.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

The Mystic Trumpeter, Op. 18 by Gustav Holst
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Sir Andrew Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1904/1912; United Kingdom 
First Choral Symphony, Op. 41/H 155 by Gustav Holst
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano), Caroline Harrison (Viola)
Conductor:  Sir Andrew Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra,  BBC Symphony Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923-1924; England 

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