Sunday, June 18, 2017

Gustav Holst - Choral Symphony; A Choral Fantasia (Adrian Boult; Imogen Holst)


Composer: Gustav Holst
  1. Choral Symphony, Op. 41: Prelude. Invocation to Pan - I. Song and Bacchanal
  2. Choral Symphony, Op. 41: II. Ode on a Grecian Urn
  3. Choral Symphony, Op. 41: III. Scherzo. Fancy-Folly's Song
  4. Choral Symphony, Op. 41: IV. Finale
  5. A Choral Fantasia, Op. 51

Felicity Palmer, mezzo-soprano (1-4)
London Philharmonic Choir (1-4)
London Philharmonic Orchestra (1-4)
Adrian Boult, conductor (1-4)

Janet Baker, mezzo-soprano (5)
Ian Partridge, tenor (5)
The Purcell Singers (5)
Ralph Downes, organ (5)
English Chamber Orchestra (5)
Imogen Holst, conductor (5)

Date: 1964 (5), 1974 (1-4)
Label: EMI



"... The Choral Fantasia was Holst’s last choral work. Written for the Three Choirs Festival, Holst conceived the work as an Organ Concerto, then rethought the piece and set a poem by Robert Bridges for soloists and chorus whilst retaining the prominent organ part. We’ve known this performance for so many years, as the coupling for Wilfred Brown’s transcendental performance of Finzi’s Dies Natalis and it’s good to hear it within the context of a Holst concert. This is an authoritative performance, directed by the composer’s daughter, and the young Janet Baker is radiant. ..."

-- Bob Briggs, MusicWeb International
reviewing EMI CLASSICS 50999 6 27898 2 / HOLST: The Planets, etc.


"... The 1925 Choral Symphony to words by Keats has been a personal favourite of mine since the 1970s. It's a piece I have great affection for and while I have often been nonplussed by the stark Choral Fantasia the lovingly couched word settings move me still. This Boult version is the work’s recording premiere - the second came in 1993 with Davan-Wetton in Guildford - Hyperion Helios CDH55104. The latter is as pleasing as the Boult but the Abbey Road acoustic is more transparent than Hyperion’s Henry Wood Hall. Again the wide range of sound impresses - from the lissom soprano voice of Felicity Palmer to rampant Bacchus's crew. The second movement is a setting of the sustained, stilling and distant cool of Ode on a Grecian Urn – part Venus-part Neptune. The music at 4:10 is incredibly moving and one wonders what emotional reactions it must have touched off among the War-bereaved audiences of the 1920s. The quicksilver feyness and full-throttle delicate Scherzo - a tour de force in tongue-twisting acceleration - will be familiar from Mercury. The dazzlingly grand finale has golden majesty, poetry and inspired musical invention aplenty. The music blazes with exultation over a typically trudging Holstian ostinato. ..."

-- Rob Barnett,  MusicWeb International
reviewing EMI CLASSICS 50999 4 40471 2 2 / HOLST: The Collector`s Edition


Gustav Holst (21 September 1874 – 25 May 1934) was an English composer, arranger and teacher. Best known for his orchestral suite The Planets, he composed a large number of other works across a range of genres, although none achieved comparable success. Apart from The Planets and a handful of other works, his music was generally neglected until the 1980s, since when recordings of much of his output have been available. His distinctive compositional style was the product of many influences, including Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss, English folk songs and modern composers such as Maurice Ravel.


Adrian Boult (8 April 1889 – 22 February 1983) was an English conductor. Boult was known for his championing of British music. He gave the first performance of Gustav Holst's The Planets, and introduced new works by, among others, Bliss, Britten, Delius, Tippett, Vaughan Williams and Walton. In his BBC years he introduced works by foreign composers, including Bartók, Berg, Stravinsky, Schoenberg and Webern. As well as a series of extensive recordings that have remained in the catalogue for decades, Boult's legacy includes his influence on prominent conductors of later generations, including Colin Davis and Vernon Handley.


Imogen Holst (12 April 1907 – 9 March 1984) was an English composer, arranger, conductor, teacher and festival administrator. The only child of the composer Gustav Holst, she is particularly known for her educational work at Dartington Hall in the 1940s, and for her 20 years as joint artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival. In addition to composing music, she wrote composer biographies, much educational material, and several books on the life and works of her father. Imogen's own music is not widely known and has received little critical attention; much of it is unpublished and unperformed.


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