The third volume in Chandos' super audio series of the orchestral music of Gustav Holst presents two works where voices and instruments are combined, The Mystic Trumpeter, Op. 18, on texts by Walt Whitman, and the First Choral Symphony, on texts by John Keats. While neither composition achieved the popularity of his greatest triumph, The Planets, each is cast in a grand, post-Romantic style that is immediately accessible and appealing. The Mystic Trumpeter, a scena for soprano and orchestra, clearly shows the debt Holst owed to Richard Wagner, as well as the influence of his friend, Ralph Vaughan Williams. Its operatic form and lavish orchestration make it quite stirring, and soprano Susan Gritton sustains interest in the vocal part even when the orchestra dominates. The First Choral Symphony is much more imposing in its forces and 50-minute duration, and displays Holst's interest in English folk music and modal scales, as well as his absorption of impressionist tone colors. At times the symphony touches on the sonorities of The Planets, and for that reason, fans of that piece might give it a try first because the idiom is familiar. Gritton, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and the BBC Symphony Chorus are brilliantly conducted by Andrew Davis, who took up this series after the death of Richard Hickox, and he gives this volume the same expansiveness and deep feeling his predecessor contributed to this repertoire.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|The Mystic Trumpeter, Op. 18, H 71|
|First Choral Symphony, Op. 41, H 155|
Song & Bacchanal: Part 2. Whence came ye, merry Damsels! whence came ye! / Part 3. Within his car, aloft, young Bacchus Stood / Part 4. Whence came ye, jolly Satyrs! whence came ye!
Song & Bacchanal: Part 5. Onward the tiger & the leopard pants / Part 6. Bacchus, young Bacchus! good or ill betide.
Finale: Part 1. Spirit here that reignest! / Part 2. God of the golden bow. Here Homer with his nervous arms.
Finale: Part 3. Then, through thy Temple wide, melodious swells / Part 4. Tis awful silence then again. Thou biddest Shakespeare wave his hand. A silver trumpet Spenser blows.