JoAnn Falletta / Ulster Orchestra

Holst: Cotswolds Symphony

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JoAnn Falletta and the Ulster Orchestra present a diverse program of lesser known works by Gustav Holst, the composer of the perennially popular suite The Planets. Holst's music was informed early on by the late Romantics, and traces of Johannes Brahms can be plainly heard in the Walt Whitman Overture, which Holst composed at college when he was still searching for a personal style. The Symphony in F major, "The Cotswolds," was a major step forward in developing a distinctive voice, and though it partakes of conventions in British symphonic writing, it shows a growing awareness of folk music's potential in his work. A Winter Idyll, influenced by Holst's teacher, Charles Villiers Stanford, shows much the same tentative exploration of the Walt Whitman Overture. But there is a pronounced change in flavor and mood in the Japanese Suite and the symphonic poem, Indra, which show Holst's adoption of impressionist harmonies and atmospheric orchestration, as well as a turning away from purely German influences to draw on Asian musical ideas and philosophies. Fans of Holst's music will find the last 25 minutes of the CD will put them on familiar ground, though the first 40 minutes of the album will at least provide context for his career. The orchestra delivers satisfying performances, and Falletta leads with great control and clarity, so all the pieces feel fully realized and exciting to play.

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