ALBUM TITLE: Holst
WORKS: Walt Whitman Overture; Suite de Ballet; Suite in E flat (arr. Jacob); A Hampshire Suite (arr. Jacob); A Moorside Suite (arr. Jacob)
PERFORMER: London PO/Nicholas Braithwaite
CATALOGUE NO: SRCD 210 ADD/DDD New/Reissue
This is an engaging programme of minor Holst. There’s not much to be said for the 1899 Walt Whitman Overture, which although effectively scored never escapes from the shadows of Schumann and Wagner. But the equally early Suite de Ballet is less ambitious and much more successful, with a splendidly Tchaikovskyan waltz and an atmospheric nocturne for solo violin and muted strings. And then there are the two military band Suites and the Moorside Suite for brassband, much later pieces full of good, hearty tunes, all orchestrated with consummate skill by Gordon Jacob – though I can’t be alone in preferring the characterful originals.
The performances are generally spirited and well balanced. The recordings are acceptable, though variable, as you might expect from the disc’s chequered history: the Suite de Ballet recorded in 1980 and released on LP in 1985; the rest from various sessions in 1988 and 1993, but apparently never previously issued. As for direct competition, Braithwaite’s Whitman Overture and Hampshire Suite are preferable to the somewhat perfunctory accounts by Douglas Bostock and the underpowered Munich Symphony on Classico. But the Suite de Ballet gets a generally trimmer and more fluent performance from Richard Hickox and the Northern Sinfonia; and Hickox’s main coupling, the Chaucerian one-Act opera The Wandering Scholar, is of greater significance in Holst’s output than anything on this old-new Lyrita offering. Anthony Burton