Excellent Unfamiliar Holst from JoAnn Falletta

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

This disc contains a wealth of relatively unfamiliar music, although all of it has been recorded before. Holst’s “The Cotswolds” Symphony deserves credit for its untraditional approach to form: it’s basically a lively and unpretentious framework for the touching second-movement Elegy (In memoriam William Morris). While it doesn’t sound much like the later Holst, it’s clear that the composer was not in sympathy with the typical, late-Romantic conception of the symphony, and good for him. The Walt Whitman Overture was composed at about the same time as the symphony, and sounds like it; it’s a lively and slightly anonymous piece that’s good, clean fun. A Winter Idyll, the earliest work on the disc, begins with a surprisingly violent gesture and then quickly calms down, but never loses focus or lacks freshness.

The two major works, though, are the Japanese Suite (contemporaneous with The Planets) and the tone poem Indra. Holst basically disowned this latter work, as he did most of his early pieces, but the fact is that he was a master of musical exoticism, even if the style is not as orchestrally lean and cool as we find in the Japanese Suite. Here the mature composer is obvious, nowhere more so than in the Dance of the Marionette (sound sample), with its repeated rhythms and delicate writing for the glockenspiel. The performances are first rate in all respects—at least as fine as the recorded competition. JoAnn Falletta gets an enthusiastic response from the Ulster Orchestra, and her interpretive choices (tempos especially) sound unerringly right. The engineering is clean and clear; it suits the music. A fine disc.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None for this coupling

    Walt Whitman Overture; Symphony in F major "The Cotswolds"; A Winter Idyll; Japanese Suite; Indra

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