Richard Hickox

Gustav Holst: Choral Works

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What a wonderful world it is when a first-class English label undertakes to record a Holst series. For a composer whose music permeated popular culture in the latter years of the twentieth century, Holst has always been thinly represented on disc. Aside from the perennial Planets, there have rarely been more than a handful of recordings of other pieces by Holst available. That Chandos undertook to record a whole series of Holst recordings in the early '90s was a wonderful thing. That Chandos also engaged Richard Hickox to conduct the Holst series and as this 1994 disc of choral music demonstrates, it was a wonderful choice. Hickox is sympathetic to Holst's severely lyrical choral writing and he gets strong but sensitive singing from London Symphony Chorus and the aptly named Joyful Company of Singers. Their performances are always appropriate to the scale and tone of the work: sweet-toned and supple in the Partsongs (7), awe-inspiring in A Choral Fantasia, and transcendent in the Ode to Death. With the delightful soprano Patricia Rozario and a magnificent but anonymous organist on A Choral Fantasia and the City of London Sinfonia on everything, Hickox and the choirs have recorded a wonderful disc. Chandos' sound is warm and voluptuous.