This 76-minute collection
of shorter works by Holst offers up
a series of delights whilst revealing
various sides of that composer’s character.
A Winter Idyll shows a very approachable
Holst, with open-air textures and tunes
(‘tunes’ more than ‘themes’, or even
‘melodies’) that exude playfulness.
David Atherton inspires the LPO to great
heights of precision and they play with
The Elegy (In Memoriam
William Morris) is a work of great
integrity. More than this, though, it
is simply gorgeous in its dark, lush
colourings. Impassioned, concentrated
and confident, it builds impressively
to a powerful climax. The piece is actually
the second movement from the so-called
‘Cotswolds’ Symphony. Astonishingly,
the symphony was in effect forgotten
after its 1902 premiere until its revival
Indra is Holst’s
earliest completed extended work from
his ‘Indian period’. Holst was later
to set hymns from the Rig Veda, between
1907 and 1912. The work is full of glowing
textures; a climax (around four minutes
in) features blazing brass. The performance
under Atherton’s baton is remarkable
convincing, mainly because he is able
to keep the overall structure in mind
despite the many passages where there
might be a temptation to linger.
Two works for solo
instrument and orchestra make an appearance.
First, A Song of the Night, composed
in 1905 but not performed, Lewis Foreman’s
notes tell us, until 1984. Lorraine
McAslan produces an appropriately throaty
tone for the work’s opening, then ruminates
long and deeply. This is an involving
meditation during which McAslan’s filigree
and soaring phrases confirm her affinity
with Holst’s music.
intended as a companion piece to A
Song of the Night and it, too, is
blessed with a seemingly ideal soloist
(here cellist Alexander Baillie). Baillie
plays Invocation so lovingly
and yet so plaintively that this account
leaves a lasting impression on the listener.
The two solo items
sandwich the more intense, punchy Interlude
from Act 3 of Sita. This six-minute
interlude is absolutely full of life,
Atherton projecting a visceral feeling
of mystic ecstasy.
For the final two items,
the LSO is used. The music for the ballet
The Lure came about in response
to a commission from Chicago. Holst
uses a folk-tune from W. G. Whittaker’s
North Countrie Ballads, Songs and
Pipe-Tunes (it appears at 4’13).
However, it appears the ballet was never
staged and this recording (edited by
Imogen Holst and Colin Matthews) seems
to be its first manifestation, live
or on disc. It is a dynamic, exciting
work that deserves inclusion in the
The Morning of the
Year was the first score ever commissioned
by the BBC Music Department (the work
is a representation of mating in Spring!).
Here we have the four Dances, plus Introduction
(in the ballet the dances alternate
with choral interludes). The Dances
are recorded in a concert version edited
by Imogen Holst and Colin Matthews.
They take in a wide variety of moods,
vividly painted and superbly recorded
This disc magnificently
proves that ‘lesser-known’ does not
necessarily equate to ‘lesser’ – there
are some remarkable finds here. There
is much more to Holst than, say The
Planets and The Perfect Fool.
Here is a good place as any (and better
than most) to embark on the voyage of