C Matthews, Holst: The Planets; Lyric Movement, Pluto

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: C Matthews,Holst
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: The Planets; Lyric Movement, Pluto
PERFORMER: Timothy Pooley (viola); Hallé Choir & Orchestra/Mark Elder
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67270
Typical Hyperion imagination: in putting Holst’s famous suite of 1914-17 into its catalogue at last, the company has added Colin Matthews’s recent codicil devoted to the planet which was discovered only in 1930 – played by the orchestra which commissioned it, under its new music director. The new piece is a whirling evocation of remote solar winds, punctuated by two huge outbursts, and succeeds miraculously in evoking Holst’s spirit while remaining genuine Matthews. Because ‘Pluto’ begins over the fade-out ending of ‘Neptune’, the disc also contains an alternative ‘clean’ version of Holst’s extraordinary finale. A more significant extra is the late Lyric Movement for viola and small orchestra, a touching meditation beautifully played by Timothy Pooley.

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In The Planets itself, Elder shows unusual concern for contrast within movements, at the cost sometimes of intensity: the very opening of ‘Mars’ is less fierce than usual, and the start of ‘Saturn’ sounds rather perfunctory, almost two-in-a-bar. But this is overall a thoughtful, considered reading, with excellent orchestral playing – the brass outstanding, both loud and soft – and first-rate sound. The competition is strong: among others, Boult’s final recording for EMI has all the authority of the work’s first interpreter; Roy Goodman on Carlton benefits from the vivid colours and clear balance of the instruments of Holst’s time; Charles Dutoit’s Montreal account, imaginatively directed and superbly played and recorded, is hard to beat. However, with the Matthews and the Lyric Movement, this disc is a highly desirable addition to anyone’s collection. Anthony Burton