A rich seam of sym­phonic won­ders is plun­dered

Mal­colm Hayes en­joys the BBC Phil­har­monic’s lat­est vol­ume of Holst’s be­jew­elled or­ches­tral of­fer­ings

BBC Music Magazine - - Orchestral -

A Win­ter Idyll; Sym­phony in F (The Cotswolds); In­vo­ca­tion; A Moor­side Suite; In­dra; Scherzo

Guy John­ston (cello); BBC Phil­har­monic/an­drew Davis Chan­dos CHSA 5192 (hy­brid CD/SACD) 77:02 mins

This lat­est in­stal­ment of Chan­dos’s sur­vey of ★olst’s or­ches­tral works is far more than a pre­dictable beach­comber’s de­light. The qual­ity of the per­for­mances is a feast in it­self, the BBC Phil­har­monic playing with world­class pre­ci­sion that ex­actly matches the cease­less quest for clar­ity in ★olst’s id­iom. The recorded sound, too, con­veys needle­point de­tail within a nat­u­ral-sound­ing, non-clin­i­cal am­bi­ence.

The two ear­li­est works are the pre-1900 A Win­ter Idyll and the Cotswolds Sym­phony – each show­ing com­pre­hen­sive mas­tery of the fresh-air or­ches­tral style of Dvo ák or Grieg, and nei­ther con­vey­ing any con­nec­tion be­tween choice of ti­tle and the mu­sic it­self. The strong­est ma­te­rial is the Sym­phony’s slow move­ment, ‘El­egy in memo­riam Wil­liam Mor­ris’, al­though the mu­sic’s sincerity of feel­ing comes across as gen­er­alised rather than par­tic­u­lar. Far more im­pres­sive is In­dra, a sym­phonic poem in­spired by ★olst’s grow­ing in­ter­est in San­skrit mythol­ogy. ★is daugh­ter and bi­og­ra­pher, Imo­gen ★olst, later made much of what she saw as the near-ma­lign in­flu­ence of Wag­ner on her fa­ther’s de­vel­op­ment. In­dra in­di­cates an op­po­site sit­u­a­tion: con­cisely struc­tured as ever, the mu­sic’s po­tent ex­pres­sion and dra­matic flair show how much the Wag­ner phe­nom­e­non had helped to get ★olst out of his head and to free up his con­fi­dence as an artist.

Guy John­ston’s mel­low-toned de­liv­ery of the poised and beau­ti­fully scored In­vo­ca­tion is fol­lowed by ★olst’s own string-orches­tra ar­range­ment, un­per­formed un­til 1994, of his Moor­side Suite (orig­i­nally for brass brand). And his last com­pleted mu­sic, the Scherzo from a planned Sym­phony, is as tautly com­pressed and in­di­vid­ual as any­thing he wrote.

PER­FOR­MANCE

RECORD­ING

The qual­ity of the per­for­mances is a feast in it­self

Hear ex­tracts from this record­ing and the rest of this month’s choices on the BBC Mu­sic Mag­a­zine web­site at www.clas­si­cal-mu­sic.com

Mel­low cello:Guy John­ston's turn is a smooth high­light

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