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The Christian Science Monitor, Boston, USA, Monday, April 19, 1920


By the CSM special music correspondent

LONDON, England - Gustav Holst's setting of "The Hymn of Jesus" is indubitably a notable and noble choral work. Its first performance at the Royal Philharmonic Society's concert at Queen's Hall on March 25 proved an event of real importance.

It was preceded by Bach's cantata "God Goeth Up With Shouting", and Handel's organ concerto in B flat No. 2, the contrapuntal idiom and strong dignity of these works proving an admirable prelude to the intensely modern composition by Holst. The opening chorus and concluding choral in the cantata were finely sung by the Philharmonic Choir. One wishes it were possible to say as much for the four solos - tenor, soprano, bass and contralto - which lay between, though on behalf of the soloists, it must be admitted their parts were extremely exacting and Bach's handling of the orchestral accompaniment not such as to make them easier.

On passing to the Handel concerto it was interesting to hear the change in the quality of the orchestra. At once it sounded richer and more open. Handel wrote his accompaniments with almost arrogant ease and got quite naturallly that foundation tone from his violins and basses which the great Italians knew was the best method. Bach, on the other hand, in this cantata evidently had the characteristic tone of the German school of violinists in his thoughts - a timbre close and plaintive, approximating to the stridency of an oboe. The solo in the organ concerto was played by H. Goss Custard, the organ in Queen's Hall leaving something to be desired as an instrument. These works, like the later part of the concert, were conducted by Charles Kennedy Scott.

"The Hymn of Jesus" was conducted by Gustav Holst himself. He seured a wonderfully fine performance, though longer familiarity with the work will bring still greater assurance to the singers in the two choruses and semi-chorus in their task of singing these most difficult harmonies and will give them a still better rapport with the orchestra, pianoforte, and organ which constitute the insturumental elements. This first performance, however, got all the essentials of the work, and how much beauty there is to reveal! It is new, original; as modern in its way as anything Ravel or Scriabin has done and deep fervor glows through the music with an intensity very moving to the heart.

At the close Holst was recalled again and again to bow his acknowledgments.

The second half of the concert started with Wagner's "Siegfried Idyll" dreamily played under Kennedy Scott, and the remainder of the program was choral, consisting of "Father and Daughter", "Morning Song in the Jungle" by Percy Grainger, and Balfour Gardiner's dramatic setting of Masefield's ballad "News from Whydah".

The modern ballad was fine enough but it had to yield pride of place to that old virile, primitive dancing ballad, "Father and Daughter", the rune and words of which come from the Faerö Islands. Percy Grainger has arranged them for five menís single voices, double mixed chorus, strings, brass, mandolin and guitar band. The effect is startling. He conveys the steady speed, the unflagging beat of the dancerís feet, while he enrols the fierce fate of the ballad, with its refrain of words at once simple and ominous. These Faeröese ballads are known to be very old. The dance tunes belong to the primitive type of folk-music, and the Faeröese use them for their ring-dances, which are a survival of the Kettentanz from the Middle Ages.

The Christian Science Monitor, Boston, USA, Monday, April 19, 1920

by Marion M Scott

This article appears here with the kind permission of Pamela Blevins


Marion Scott home page

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