Richard Hickox, one of the foremost exponents of British music, embarks on his survey of orchestral works by Holst with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
The Planets is at the heart of the English repertoire, yet much of Holst’s orchestral output is unjustly neglected. This series will demonstrate that Holst was a composer of great inventiveness.
Volume 1 offers three rarely recorded works, the ballets The Lure (its first time to CD), The Golden Goose and The Morning of the Year, alongside the more familiar Ballet from the one-act opera The Perfect Fool, long recognised as one of Holst’s most successful small-scale works.
The Golden Goose and The Morning of the Year are known as ‘choral ballets’. The Golden Goose was composed for Morley College, where Holst had been Director of Music since 1907, and was intended for amateurs. The ballet is based on the Grimms’ fairy tale of the Princess who had never been able to laugh. The Morning of the Year was the first work to be commissioned by the BBC Music Department, and so is an altogether more serious affair and dedicated to the English Folk Dance Society. This is one of Holst’s most impressive fusions of folk music with his own style, and has no need of the stage to make its full impact.
The Lure shares some of the same origins with the Perfect Fool ballet. The music was written in 1918 as incidental music for a play called The Sneezing Charm by Clifford Bax but at the time it was performed neither as a ballet nor as an orchestral piece. Frustrated by the lack of performance, Holst eventually withdrew the work from his list of compositions. Based on a Northumbrian folk tune, it is lively and powerful, and typical of the composer.
Holst had no desire to be predictable and if he has sometimes seemed to be eclipsed by his more gifted contemporaries he remains one of the most original and innovative musicians of the past century. This recorded survey is sure to shine new light on his neglected works and introduce a new audience to his orchestral music.