1907, 1922, 1927, 1931, 1934, 1996, Music

Holst: Orchestral Works Including Hammersmith and Egdon Heath (1996) by London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Richard Hickox

This is a compilation of some of Holst’s shorter orchestral works.

The “Fugal Overture” has a lot more appeal to me than some of his other works. It’s at times energetic and at other times somber and there is a lot going on. It’s hardly significant, but it’s enjoyable. My favourite Holst piece so far.

The rhapsody lives up to its name, but it’s like so much of Holst’s work – it sounds like he composed it in a different century.

The scherzo from an unfinished symphony is the kind of thing I like. Again, relatively conservative for the era, but full of energy and interesting little features. I find the charge that his music is “cold” to be a little odd when I hear something this lively.

“Egdon Heath” is apparently one of his most famous works. It’s a programmic tone poem, something that was very in vogue in the decades before he wrote it. I don’t mind a decent tone poem, and this is a pretty good example. On the other hand, if this is the best thing he ever wrote – and apparently he believed that – then I need to stop listening to so much of his music… That might sound harsh, but I just find Holst to be too traditional for my tastes a lot of the time.

It’s good stuff, but it’s hardly among the best tone poems I’ve heard, and I’m hard pressed to laud it too much.

“Hammersmith” is my kind of thing. It makes sense that it was originally written for a military band. It is bombastic but then contrasted with extreme quiet.  What I love about late Romantic music, even if it was written rather late.

“Capriccio” is a 1932 piece altered by his daughter Imogen. I have no idea what she added to it, having not heard the original. It certainly doesn’t sound like a “jazz band” (the original name of the piece). It’s pleasant, I guess.

On the whole, this is a solid selection of music. Though I am not in love with Holst, his music is pretty decent stuff, and has moments that are really great.


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