Holst: First Choral Symphony; The Mystic Trumpeter – review

Gritton/BBCSO & Chorus/Davis

The background to this disc is a melancholy one, for it was during Chandos sessions to record Holst's Choral Symphony in Swansea in 2008 that the conductor Richard Hickox was taken ill; he died shortly afterwards. The soprano soloist then, too, was Susan Gritton, and she adds a short tribute to the notes accompanying this new completed version with Andrew Davis, who took over the Holst series Hickox had initiated. Nevertheless, though beautifully shaped by Davis, Gritton and the BBC Symphony Chorus, it's not the unconvincingly structured and overlong symphony, with its motley collection of Keats texts, that makes the bigger impression, but the other work on this disc: the setting of Whitman's The Mystic Trumpeter, which Holst composed in 1904 and revised eight years later but that only got two performances in his lifetime. It not only shows Holst moving from the influence of Wagner to a much more personal musical language, but also a wonderfully assured sense of pacing, which is so conspicuously lacking in the later symphony; Gritton sings it ravishingly, too.


Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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