GUSTAV HOLST - Cotswolds Symphony

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GUSTAV HOLST - Cotswolds Symphony - JoAnn Falletta (Conductor) - Ulster Orchestra - 747313291472 - Released: June 2012 - Naxos 8.572914

1} Walt Whitman Overture, Op. 7, H42
2} Symphony in F major, Op. 8, H47, "The Cotswolds"
3} A Winter Idyll, H31
4} Japanese Suite, Op. 33, H126
5} Indra - Symphonic Poem, Op. 13, H66

A grouping together of rarely heard stray pieces by Gustav Holst (1874-1934), to which you may be able to compare other recordings found mostly on the Lyrita label, which tags this new Naxos recording as the only one in recent years to present these unfamiliar works together. The main offering on this CD is the Symphony in F major, Op. 8, H47, "The Cotswolds", written at least fifteen to twenty years prior to 'The Planets'. The Cotswolds are a range of gently rolling hills in southwestern and west-central England, over an area that covers around 2000 square miles, treasured for their natural beauty. It opens with bold horn calls that immediately summon images of wide open spaces, and set the stage for a boisterous and jolly first movement. The following Molto Adagio (In memoriam William Morris) indicates Holst's propensity at setting a piece's character through clever orchestration and dramatic tension. A rhythmically challenging and brilliantly scored Scherzo ensues, quickly followed by a sunlit romp finale, all boldly executed by the Ulster Orchestra.

Other highlights on the disc include the Japanese Suite, Op. 33, H126, written around the same time as 'The Planets', a fact made plainly obvious when you hear the movement titled 'Dance of the Marionette' which employs some of the same orchestration and rhythm techniques. And the earliest work dating from 1897, A Winter Idyll, H31, if not in the typical Holst style, displays an assured composer who could easily manipulate and pull an idea in many directions without losing track of its final outcome.

Conductor JoAnn Falletta once again, as in this recording of music by Marcel Tyberg, demonstrates a versatility and an instant affinity to the composer at hand, and delivers a solid and uncluttered account. Well worth hearing as a precursive road map to 'The Planets'.

Jean-Yves Duperron - August 2012