Holst: First Choral Symphony; A Choral Fantasia

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COMPOSERS: Holst
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: First Choral Symphony; A Choral Fantasia
PERFORMER: Lynne Dawson (soprano)Guildford Choral Society, RPO/Hilary Davan Wetton
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66660 DDD
Holst’s First Choral Symphony comprises settings of Keats’s poetry, including the Ode on a Grecian Urn as the slow second movement and Fancy and Folly’s Song as the Scherzo. This quicksilver-like movement scurries along breathtakingly and strongly recalls ‘Mercury’ from The Planets, the Guildford choir rising magnificently to the stiff challenges of the tongue-tripping texts and the shifting harmonies. Lynne Dawson’s pure tone is a delight and she colours her voice convincingly to the varying moods of the text. Holst’s orchestrations are brilliantly colourful and draw you right into the forest revelries or the mysteries of creation. An impressive and portentous concertante organ part adds gravitas and a sense of transcendental mystery to the Choral Fantasia, a setting of Robert Bridges’s Ode to Music.

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Neither of these works impressed critics, performers or audiences at their premieres, so they languished. Now, with Davan Wetton drawing a first-class performance from the choir and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, plus a splendidly detailed and spacious recording, home audiences can now appreciate the full worth of these imaginative works. Ian Lace