Holst: The Planets; St Paul’s Suite

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Holst
LABELS: Carlton
WORKS: The Planets; St Paul’s Suite
PERFORMER: New Queen’s Hall Orchestra & Ladies Chorus/Roy Goodman
CATALOGUE NO: 30366 00432
When the principles of authenticity began to affect early music playing a few decades ago, few would have believed that we would eventually end up listening to authentic performances of early 20th-century music too. Here are pieces which were surely written for something very like our modern symphony orchestra. Yet the New Queen’s Hall Orchestra has shown how the narrow-bore brass instruments and gut strings characteristic of the turn of the century can clarify textures and reveal long-hidden secrets.

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Whether Holst’s The Planets is particularly susceptible to such treatment is arguable. There are certainly a few wind details that sound more readily through the softer-grained strings and brass here, but Holst’s sharp-edged textures always ring true in modern orchestral performances when due care is taken.

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Still, this is a fresh and lively interpretation and if Goodman sometimes sets an unusually brisk tempo, even sounding a little breathless in some slower movements, he does achieve an airy clarity, generating buoyant rhythms and urgent expression. It is merely that we occasionally miss spaciousness and grandeur in cadence and transition. The St Paul’s Suite is also taken quite quickly and wings its way enthusiastically with vibrant string sonorities. Anthony Payne