Owain Arwel Hughes / Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Holst: The Planets & Somerset Rhapsody

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Gustav Holst composed The Planets (1914-1916) well before the discovery of Pluto in 1930; though he lived until 1934, he felt no desire to extend his seven-movement suite to include a new piece devoted to it. However, at the urging of conductor Kent Nagano, composer and Holst scholar Colin Matthews has created an optional eighth movement -- Pluto, the Renewer -- to close out the work. His completion of Holst's tour of the solar system may make sense to the astronomically and astrologically minded, but artistically, its value is debatable. With Holst's ending, Neptune, the Mystic, the cycle ends with an eerie, unresolved fade-out that is lovely in expression and suggestive of the mysteries of space. Matthews' Pluto, marked Prestissimo scorrevole and composed in a chaotic, atonal style, brings The Planets to a violent and disturbing conclusion; though its final measures are as unresolved as Holst's, this ending is disheartening and a little frightening. Apart from this, the performance by the Cambridge Singers and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Owain Arwel Hughes, is attractive and occasionally arresting in its beautiful colors. Unfortunately, the sound quality is on the soft side, so periodic volume adjustments may be necessary.

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