Richard Hickox

Holst: St. Paul's Suite

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No matter how many works you listen to by Holst and no matter how many times you listen to them, it's still hard to get a fix on his compositional personality. The Planets, his best-known work, depicts seven different personality types and his less-well-known works depict many more than seven. This 1993 recording by Richard Hickox conducting the City of London Sinfonia contains 16 movements spread over six works and its hard to tell which one's the real Holst. This is not to say that Hickox and the Sinfonia don't play brilliantly, they do. And this is not to say that the pieces aren't attractive, they are. Who could resist the pastoral pastiche of their Brook Green Suite or the modal majesty of their St. Paul's Suite? But who could remember the big tune of the Lyric Movement for viola and small orchestra or even the fugal theme of A Fugal Concerto for flute, oboe, and string orchestra? Every movement is filled with moments of great beauty but precious little of it is memorable. But like life itself, the transcendence of Holst's music is that it's transient. If one can only recall a few of those moments of great beauty, that is like life, too. Chandos' sound is warm and round but perhaps a little too diffuse.

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