Notes and Editorial Reviews
The reasons for Holst’s relative neglect, beyond The Planets and the Band Suites, aren’t hard to fathom. He wrote no large works in conventional forms, and never repeated himself. Even the Choral Symphony on poetry by Keats, here in its finest recorded performance to date (by Boult), owes very little to precedent–Mahler’s Eighth and Elgar’s The Black Knight, perhaps–and in any case features Holst’s personal combination of “spacey” orchestral color and rhythmic complexity (sample below). The music is both personal, technically virtuosic, and however beautiful somewhat cool emotionally. There is nothing else quite like it in the early 20th century.
EMI has a distinguished Holst discography, most of which is included here. It is by no means a “complete works” collection; missing are the choral ballets, Savitri, the Japanese Suite, and other pieces recorded by labels such as Lyrita and Hyperion. However, you do get everything you need for a comprehensive overview, including Boult’s last recording of The Planets, Previn’s benchmark Perfect Fool Ballet and Egdon Heath, the band suites (including A Moorside Suite) led by Holst’s daughter Imogen, A Somerset Rhapsody, the Brook Green Suite, A Fugal Concerto, Hammersmith, the St. Paul’s Suite, the Ode to Death, Choral Fantasia, Hymn of Jesus, and Short Festival Te Deum. Virtually all of these performances (save Malcolm Sargent’s somewhat faded 1950s recording of Beni Mora) are at least as good as the best available.
Also included are two short operas: The Wandering Scholar and At the Boar’s Head, featuring iconic singers such as Robert Tear, Philip Langridge, John Tomlinson, Felicity Palmer, , and Elise Ross, conducted by Steuard Bedford and David Atherton, respectively. The one problem with this set is that it contains no texts, an obvious issue both in the works listed and in the two sets of Rig Veda Hymns and other part songs and short vocal pieces. Otherwise, there is absolutely nothing to prevent this from being the essential Holst collection on disc.
-- David Hurwitz,ClassicsToday.com