1899, 1900, 1911, 1922, 1934, 2002, Music

Symphony in F; Suite No. 2; etc. (2002) by Gustav Holst, performed by Munich Symphony Orchestra conducted by Douglas Bostock

This is a collection of both short and long orchestral works by Holst. It’s a scattershot collection, like so many others.

The ‘Cotswolds’ symphony intrigued me because I heard an excerpt from it on another collection (the elegy, to be precise). It’s a nice late Romantic symphony. Like so much other British work, it fails utterly to be revolutionary, but at least it’s pleasant. I think the elegy is the highlight of the work, which is slightly disappointing.

“Walt Whitman” is one of those overtures without a main piece. It’s jaunty but, not knowing about Whitman the man or his writing, I have no idea whether or not that is appropriate. The music itself is pretty typical early Holst – late Romantic music that doesn’t really challenge but pleases the ear and, at times, appears to flirt with classicism. It’s fine.

The second suite for concert band has here been re-arranged for orchestra. This the second time I have heard one of Holst’s concert band pieces in a convenient orchestral arrangement rather than the original arrangement of the composer. Not only is it martial, but its opening is borderline Classical. I have actually heard this before. It’s so stately and British and boring. It’s the kind of thing the leaders of the Empire probably forced everyone to listen to as they contemplated their grandeur among pomp and circumstance. Ugh.

The Perfect Fool suite is the ballet version of one of his operas, which was apparently so misunderstood that most people just play this version.
It’s much darker music than Holst’s usual, and reminds me more of The Planets than perhaps any other piece of his I’ve heard. As such, I like it more. Still pretty conventional stuff, but at least it has more feeling to it.

I have heard “Scherzo” before. It’s safe but good.

On the whole, this compilation is a decent survey of some of his work. It’s hardly essential and the poor arrangement choice of the suite is annoying. But it’s decent enough if you like Holst.


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