Saturday, June 17, 2017

Gustav Holst - Orchestral Music (Ross Pople)


Composer: Gustav Holst
  • (01-04) St. Paul's Suite, Op. 29 No. 2
  • (05) Lyric Movement, for viola & chamber orchestra
  • (06-08) Brook Green Suite
  • (09-11) A Fugal Concerto, for flute, oboe & string orchestra, Op. 40 No. 2
  • (12) Scottish Airs, for piano & strings
  • (13-18) Morris Dance Tunes
  • (19) In the Bleak Midwinter, for chorus & organ

London Festival Orchestra
Ross Pople, conductor
Date: 1995
Label: Arte Nova



If you've stumbled upon this disc hoping to find works similar to Holst's masterpiece The Planets, you may well be disappointed to discover that his mystical work from 1916 has virtually no parallels in his compositional output. His style, developed while teaching music at the James Allen's Girls' School in London, is a cheerful, simple, and expressive folk-based idiom that, in the same manner as Bartók's Mikrokosmos series for piano, was written to serve the purposes of pedagogy as well as art. The St. Paul's Suite, one of Holst's more popular works for string orchestra, is best known for its finale, which combines the folk song "the Dargason" with a later superimposition of Greensleeves. Ross Pople and the London Festival Orchestra give a crisp, breezy performance of this work, instilling a lightness and airiness that bring out a real sense of Scottish flavor in "the Jig." Continuing in the Gaelic tradition, pianist Michael Freyhan joins for a flavorful performance of the Seven Scottish Airs, a work with an inherently charming collection of melodies and one not often recorded. The Lyric Movement, composed just before Holst's death, is far more melancholic in mood and introspective in character. While violist Rachel Bolt's performance is enjoyable and communicative, it does lack a certain degree of focus. Nevertheless, this late work is certainly one of the most interesting selections on the album. The Fugal Concerto, written for flute, oboe, and string orchestra, embodies Holst's cheerful optimism and is given a sprightly performance with the help of oboist Malcolm Messiter and flutist Edward Beckett. Messiter's own arrangement of Holst's popular hymn In the Bleak Midwinter (originally for chorus and organ) is also featured. Sensitively pastoral performances of the Brook Green Suite and the rollicking Six Morris Dance Tunes round out the album. Unfortunately, Arte Nova's sound is somewhat dull and unfocused, but even so, the budget price and spirited performances may well make this album worth your while.

-- C. Ryan Hill, AllMusic


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.


Ross Pople (born 11 May 1945) is a New Zealand-born British conductor and cellist. As an outstanding young cellist from New Zealand, Pople was awarded scholarships to study in England at the Royal Academy of Music, the Paris Conservatoire and the Chigiana Academia, Siena. In 1980 Pople took up the helm of London Festival Orchestra and quickly made LFO a household name through his summer festival. Pople has recorded some 80 discs for the Deutsche Grammophon, Hyperion, ASV and Sony BMG Arte Nova labels, and is acknowledged as an expert interpreter of contemporary music.


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