This latest recording by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and its Music Director Paavo Järvi features two of the best known orchestral works to come out of England in the twentieth century, Gustav Holst's popular suite for orchestra, “The Planets” and The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra by Benjamin Britten.
Although best remembered for his devotion to the core Austro-Germanic repertoire, Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan did flirt with the English repertoire in the '50s and early '60s.
Recorded in 1973, this is widely considered one of the great Planets. Previn is outstanding here; he's not going after effects, he's making all the pieces fit together.
Early in 1914, Gustav Holst told a friend: "As a rule I only study things that suggest music to me…Recently the character of each planet suggested lots to me". This marked the beginning of the composition of his biggest orchestral work, a suite of seven movements. The first to be sketched was Mars - prophetically, for the First World War began just as he completed it. The order of the composition of the remainder was Venus and Jupiter in the autumn of 1914, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune during 1915 and Mercury in 1916. The orchestration of the complete work was also finished in 1916.
First ever Wiener Philharmoniker recording of “The Planets”, a favorite of Imogen Holst, plus a benchmark recording of Elgar’s Enigma Variations.
Tasmin Little's 2013 release on Chandos is an exploration of lush and lyrical music for violin and orchestra, composed by the leading British composers of the early 20th century, and it is an album of remarkable depth and beauty. Opening the program is the Concerto for violin & orchestra by E.J. Moeran, which sets the mood for the disc with its long-breathed, melancholy lines and pastoral atmosphere. While this is a technically challenging work that shows Little to her best advantage as a virtuoso, listeners may come away from the piece recalling its sweet ambience more than its flashiness. The same could also be said for Frederick Delius' Légende, Gustav Holst's A Song of the Night, and Ralph Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending, all three of which provide tests for the violinist's skills, yet are filled with such gorgeous music that listeners may only remember the general opulence of the scores. Also included are premiere recordings of Roger Turner's arrangements of Edward Elgar's Chanson de matin, Chanson de nuit, and Salut d'amour, which in orchestration, mood, and style fit the rest of the album nicely.
The reasons for Holst’s relative neglect, beyond The Planets and the Band Suites, aren’t hard to fathom. He wrote no large works in conventional forms, and never repeated himself. Even the Choral Symphony on poetry by Keats, here in its finest recorded performance to date (by Boult), owes very little to precedent–Mahler’s Eighth and Elgar’s The Black Knight, perhaps–and in any case features Holst’s personal combination of “spacey” orchestral color and rhythmic complexity (sample below). The music is both personal, technically virtuosic, and however beautiful somewhat cool emotionally. There is nothing else quite like it in the early 20th century.