1898, 1904, 1907, 1908, 1917, 1929, Music

Gustav Holst: Vedic Hymns, Four Songs for Voice and Violin, Humbert Wolfe Songs, etc. [English Song Series 6] (2003) by Various Artists

This is a scattershot collection of 33 of Holst’s approximately 70 lieder, performed by various people from various times.

I really like the “Four Songs.” From memory, I don’t think I’ve yet heard a song for just voice and violin. This is a neat and unusual approach, to the best of my knowledge. I recognize there’s nothing truly groundbreaking here, but I do appreciate the settings more than I usually do.

The “Six Songs” are less interesting, which makes sense given that they are earlier work. This is standard late Romantic borderline-impressionist lieder. I’m just not really sold on them as anything special.

The “Vedic Hymns” (ostensibly his finest set of songs) are a little disappointing, I must say. I sort of anticipated heavily Indian-influenced Romantic music. But rather, it’s kind of vaguely impressionist lieder settings of Sanskrit hymns, which are apparently fundamental to Hinduism. It would be far more awesome if Holst had taken inspiration from the Indian music, not just the lyrics.

It’s fine music, it’s just not anything that I’m going to get really excited about.

The twelve settings for Humber Wolfe poems feel rather conservative to me (they were written substantially later than the songs above). I don’t really get the charge that he was “cold.” But I do think that this music is just not that interesting for the late ’20s. I’d rather listen to more daring stuff.

To make things more confusing, the second last song is excerpted from another set: “Margrete’s Cradle Song” is an early piece setting some Ibsen (translated of course) to pretty standard Romantic piano accompaniment. I’m not sure why it’s been included here.

“The Heart Worships” is a standalone song, and it’s fine, I guess. It’s not really anything that I would go out of my way to listen to, though.

On the whole, the collection is arbitrary but I guess fills the need of a “highlights” collection, whereas a full collection of his songs would be 2-3 discs (I assume). Frankly, there are much better lieder out there. Not really a fan of this. But it’s alright.


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