A rich seam of symphonic wonders is plundered
Malcolm Hayes enjoys the BBC Philharmonic’s latest volume of Holst’s bejewelled orchestral offerings
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.
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