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Holst: The Planets, Perfect Fool, Moorside Suite / Herrmann, Boult, Howard, Fennell

Holst / Hermann / London Phil Orch
Release Date: 01/25/2011 
Label:  Eloquence   Catalog #: 4802323   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Gustav Holst
Performer:  Julia BogoradKathryn Greenbank
Conductor:  Bernard HerrmannSir Adrian BoultChristopher HogwoodFrederick Fennell,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic OrchestraSt. Paul Chamber OrchestraEastman Wind Ensemble,   ... 
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

HOLST The Planets.1 The Perfect Fool: Ballet Music2. Egdon Heath.2 A Moorside Suite3. Suites (2) for Military Band4. St. Paul’s Suite.5 A Fugal Concerto6 • 1Bernard Herrmann, 2Adrian Boult, 3Elgar Howarth, 4Frederick Fennell, 5,6Christopher Hogwood, cond; 6Julia Bogorad (fl); 6Kathryn Greenbank (ob); 1,2London PO; 3Grimethorpe Colliery Band; 4Eastman Wind Ens; 5,6Saint Paul CO • DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 2323 (2 CDs: 135:48)

"[T]he second disc features several of the greatest Holst recordings ever made. The ballet music from The Perfect Fool , a work of Holst’s full (i.e., post- Planets ) maturity, is a brilliant and Read more scintillating orchestral showpiece; the late work Egdon Heath , an evocation of the bleak setting of Hardy’s The Return of the Native , inhabits a completely different musical world but still makes a telling effect. Sir Adrian Boult, a lifelong friend and advocate of the composer (he premiered The Planets in 1918), recorded these in 1961, and the original LP, also featuring the choral masterpiece The Hymn of Jesus (reviewed elsewhere, probably in this issue), was one of the glories of the early-stereo audiophile era; the recordings sound every bit as impressive in Decca-Eloquence’s digital remastering.

Modern musicians and listeners often fail to realize how groundbreaking the two suites for military band (the forerunner of today’s symphonic band or wind ensemble) really were. Composed just over 100 years ago, they were among the earliest original compositions for the medium, which to that point had made do mostly with transcriptions of orchestral chestnuts. They are also simply flat-out terrific music, and no recording has yet matched the verve and impact of Frederick Fennell’s 1955 versions, wisely presented here in their original vivid mono sound. The title of the original Mercury LP, British Band Classics , is for once not hyperbole; these are classic accounts of classic scores.

The Moorside Suite for brass band is tuneful if surprisingly serious; at its heart is a nocturne of great eloquence. The wonderfully British-named Grimethorpe Colliery Band features some truly funky cornet and euphonium playing, but offers an enthusiastic and satisfying account nonetheless.

olst must be one of the most misunderstood composers of the 20th century; determined not to repeat himself, he never again wrote anything remotely like The Planets , the work on which his reputation and popularity are predominantly based. Many of his finest works, in fact, are vocal. But the selection of orchestral and band works offered here provides an ideal entrée into the world of Holst “beyond The Planets .” At Eloquence’s budget price, you can afford to buy this set just to listen to the second CD; if you’re the least bit curious about the music of this true original, or if you don’t already have the never-bettered Boult and Fennell items, you can’t afford not to."

FANFARE: Richard A. Kaplan

Yes, you get The Planets too, but a version like you’ve never heard it before. More on that shortly. First, this inexpensive release offers a an excellent way to pick up a wide assortment of other pieces: The Perfect Fool ballet and Egdon Heath with Boult, A Moorside Suite for winds with the Grimethorpe Colliery Band in vintage form, the two better known Band Suites in the classic Mercury Living Presence recordings featuring the Eastman Wind Ensemble under Fred Fennell (mono, but good mono), and from Hogwood and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra there’s the St. Paul’s Suite (which has the same finale as the Second Band Suite) and A Fugal Concerto. All of the performances are excellent, without exception, and comprise seventy-eight minutes of handy, happy, snappy Holst.

As for The Planets, this is the famous–or infamous–Bernard Herrmann Phase Four recording. Herrmann was notorious for playing everything he conducted at excruciatingly slow tempos, and this performance, which lasts nearly an hour, is no exception. At these tempos, and with this many microphones, you can hear every single strand of instrumental texture, even in the most thickly scored tuttis. Check out the climax of Uranus, for example, and compare it to something more normal such as Dutoit. From the squeal of the piccolo to the clatter of the xylophone and the organ glissando at the end, every belch, squeak, bloop, and splat sounds as if highlighted. God only knows how many microphones were used.

The truth is that the work is much easier to play at faster tempos, and the orchestral often sounds uncomfortable at these speeds because they require far more rhythmic precision. Mars slithers along like something truly evil, but the brass haven’t quite the lung power to sustain the music’s power and intensity. Venus is comatose. Mercury features some remarkable individual accuracy next to some fairly scattered ensemble. Jupiter is pretty much up to tempo, whereas Saturn is painful–but aptly so. Neptune is so texturally clear that some of the mystery and atmosphere get lost in the process. It’s a strange performance, but like so many cases in which one brilliant composer interprets another, it has an odd fascination. It sounds as much like Herrmann as it does Holst, which says a lot about both. This is a very rewarding collection, then, especially for Holst connoisseurs.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

The Planets, Op. 32/H 125 by Gustav Holst
Conductor:  Bernard Herrmann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914-1916; England 
The Perfect Fool, Op. 39/H 150: Ballet Music by Gustav Holst
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1918-1922; England 
Egdon Heath, Op. 47/H 172 by Gustav Holst
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927; England 
A Fugal Concerto for Flute, Oboe and Strings, Op. 40 no 2/H 152 by Gustav Holst
Performer:  Julia Bogorad (Flute), Kathryn Greenbank (Oboe)
Conductor:  Christopher Hogwood
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Paul Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923; England 
Suite for Military Band no 2 in F major, Op. 28 no 2 by Gustav Holst
Conductor:  Frederick Fennell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Eastman Wind Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911; England 
Suite for Military Band no 1 in E flat major, Op. 28 no 1 by Gustav Holst
Conductor:  Frederick Fennell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Eastman Wind Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1909; England 
A Moorside Suite, H 173 by Gustav Holst
Conductor:  Elgar Howarth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Grimethorpe Colliery Band
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928; England 
St. Paul's Suite for Strings, Op. 29 no 2/H 118 by Gustav Holst
Conductor:  Christopher Hogwood
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Paul Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912-1913; England 

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