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The British Music Collection - Holst: Savitri, Hymns, Etc


Release Date: 03/09/2004 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 470191   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Gustav Holst
Performer:  Robert TearThomas HemsleyDame Janet BakerSusan Longfield,   ... 
Conductor:  Imogen HolstChristopher HogwoodSir Adrian BoultElgar Howarth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber OrchestraPurcell SingersSt. Paul Chamber Orchestra,   ... 
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 30 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

The popularity of The Planets deludes us as to the real nature of Holst. For the most striking aspect of his achievement is that his approach is extraordinarily wide-ranging. In his early works the influence of Wagner was important, but he outgrew this trend as he developed his interest in subjects such as Sanskrit literature, English poetry and literature, musical neo-classical and baroque styles, and, of course, astrology. He was a gifted trombone player, performing for many years with the Carl Rosa Opera Company, while as a teacher he was inspiring, working from 1919 at the Royal College of Music, and more significantly perhaps, from 1905 at St Paul's Girls School at Hammersmith.

In many respects Holst is the least known of
Read more the major English composers. The fame and popularity of his remarkable suite The Planets ought really to encourage and stimulate interest in other masterpieces - for instance the chamber opera Savitri, the oriental fantasy Beni Mora or the tone poem Egdon Heath, to mention three works whose outlooks are strongly contrasted. For a wide-ranging, even challenging, approach to his art was fundamental to both the man and the musician.

This marvellous collection of reissues, gathered as a 2CD set in Decca's 'British Music Collection', will provide the listener with a range of experiences commensurate with understanding the true nature of this elusive composer. The performances are good too, the recordings never less than satisfactory. Even the earliest of them, the two orchestral pieces recorded by Boult and the London Philharmonic in the early '60s, have come up splendidly in their reincarnation. The ballet music from the opera The Perfect Fool is nothing less than a showpiece, its outer movements full of exciting rhythms and colourful intensity, whereas the elusive Egdon Heath is the work Holst reckoned to be his greatest. It is dark and brooding, a 'difficult' work revealing its secrets only reluctantly. But once the listener has entered into its strange and compelling world, which was inspired by the opening scene of Hardy's novel The Return of the Native, it is hard not to concur with the composer's own opinion. Boult's performance is keenly judged, and the recorded sound is suitably atmospheric, wearing its years lightly.

The vocal music is a good deal less well known than it might be. Holst loved working with singers, and he really understood the challenges of writing for mixed voices. Both the Partsongs and The Evening Watch reflect this, with idiomatic performances under the devoted direction of his daughter Imogen. If some of the more recent recordings of this repertoire, notably those by the Holst Singers and Stephen Layton on Hyperion, are more atmospheric still, that is because the more recent recording allows for more subtle balances to be achieved in the part-writing.

The chamber opera Savitri is in many respects the most demanding of these works from the listener's point of view. Its strange, mystical world captures the essence of a story about love and death taken from the Sanskrit, a language the eclectic Holst learned specially for the purpose of composing it. The opera is unlikely to receive a finer performance than this one, chiefly because of the great Janet Baker in the title role, at her radiant best.

The two chamber orchestra pieces, the St Paul's Suite and the Fugal Concerto, are performed by the St Paul Chamber Orchestra (Minnesota) under Christopher Hogwood. These are at once the most recent recordings, and, in terms of sound, probably the best among the collection. The performances are good too, though the phrasing sometimes seems efficient rather than warm.

If Egdon Heath was regarded by Holst as his masterpiece, and The Planets is undoubtedly given that accolade by the public, the claim of The Hymn of Jesus cannot be far behind. Boult's splendid recording was made back in the 1960s, but its remastering has been triumphantly successful, with orchestra and chorus captured in a really compelling and atmospheric balance of ensemble and acoustic. The music is conceived in a single sweep across many contrasting visions, and this performance succeeds in reconciling these demands. For this collection must assume a proud position as one of the best issues of English music in the catalogue.

-- Terry Barfoot, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1. Savitri, Op. 25/H 96 by Gustav Holst
Performer:  Robert Tear (Tenor), Thomas Hemsley (Bass), Dame Janet Baker (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Imogen Holst
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  Purcell Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1908; England 
Language: English 
2. Partsongs (7), Op. 44/H 162 by Gustav Holst
Performer:  Susan Longfield (Soprano)
Conductor:  Imogen Holst
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  Purcell Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1925-1926; England 
Language: English 
3. The Evening-watch, Op. 43 no 1/H 159 by Gustav Holst
Conductor:  Imogen Holst
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Purcell Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1924; England 
Language: English 
4. A Fugal Concerto for Flute, Oboe and Strings, Op. 40 no 2/H 152 by Gustav Holst
Performer:  Kathryn Greenbank (Oboe), Julia Bogorad (Flute)
Conductor:  Christopher Hogwood
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Paul Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923; England 
5. 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 
6. Egdon Heath, Op. 47/H 172 by Gustav Holst
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927; England 
7. The Hymn of Jesus, Op. 37/H 140 by Gustav Holst
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra,  BBC Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1917; England 
Language: English 
8. A Moorside Suite, H 173 by Gustav Holst
Conductor:  Elgar Howarth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Grimethorpe Colliery Band
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928; England 
9. 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 
10. Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda, Op. 26: 3rd group, H 99 - no 3, Hymn to Vena by Gustav Holst
Performer:  Osian Ellis (Harp)
Conductor:  Imogen Holst
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Purcell Singers
Language: English 

Sound Samples

Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda (third group, 1909-10) - translated from the Sanskrit by Gustav Holst: Hymn To The Dawn
Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda (third group, 1909-10) - translated from the Sanskrit by Gustav Holst: Hymn To The Waters
Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda (third group, 1909-10) - translated from the Sanskrit by Gustav Holst: Hymn To Vena
Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda (third group, 1909-10) - translated from the Sanskrit by Gustav Holst: Hymn Of The Travellers
Savitri - Chamber opera in one act - original version: Savitri! Savitri! I Am Death
Savitri - Chamber opera in one act - original version: Like A Spectre Of The Forest
Savitri - Chamber opera in one act - original version: I Am With Thee
Savitri - Chamber opera in one act - original version: Then Enter, Lord; Dwell With Me
Savitri - Chamber opera in one act - original version: Loneliness And Pain Are Ended
Seven Part Songs: Say Who Is This
Seven Part Songs: O Love, I Complain
Seven Part Songs: Angel Spirits Of Sleep
Seven Part Songs: When First We Met
Seven Part Songs: Sorrow And Joy
Seven Part Songs: Love On My Heart From Heaven Fell
Seven Part Songs: Assemble All Ye Maidens
The Evening Watch, Op.43, No.1
A Fugal Concerto for Flute & Oboe, Op.40, No.2: 1. Moderato
A Fugal Concerto for Flute & Oboe, Op.40, No.2: 2. Adagio
A Fugal Concerto for Flute & Oboe, Op.40, No.2: 3. Allegro
St. Paul's Suite: 1. Jig: Vivace
St. Paul's Suite: 2. Ostinato: Presto
St. Paul's Suite: 3. Intermezzo: Andante con moto
St. Paul's Suite: 4. Finale (The Dargasson): Allegro
The Perfect Fool, Ballet Music Op.39: 1. Introduction - Dance of Spirits of Earth
The Perfect Fool, Ballet Music Op.39: 2. Dance of Spirits of Water
The Perfect Fool, Ballet Music Op.39: 3. Dance of Spirits of Fire
Egdon Heath, Op.47
The Hymn of Jesus, Op.37
A Moorside Suite, (1928)

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