JoAnn Falletta & Ulster Orchestra record music of Gustav Holst
November 8, 2011
The Ulster Orchestra entered into an exciting new relationship with Naxos in October with the recording of a CD of lesser-known music by Gustav Holst. Under its new principal conductor JoAnn Falletta, the orchestra has committed to a multi-year recording relationship with Naxos.
The first CD, which was recorded at the orchestra’s historic Ulster Hall on October 11 and 12, will include five important Holst works, including his beautiful Cotswolds Symphony, the Japanese Suite, the Walt Whitman Overture and the first uncut recordings of A Winter Idyll and Indra.
The Symphony, written during 1899 and 1900, is an evocative landscape portrait of the beautiful English countryside, and is highlighted by the emotional and deeply felt slow movement, an elegy to the memory of William Morris. Unperformed in Holst’s lifetime, his Winter Idyll shows evidence of Holst’s admiration for Wagner and other Germanic composers, along with his musical debt to his teacher Charles Stanford. Holst was passionately interested in the culture and mythology of India, and his Indra (Indra being the ancient Hindu god of rain and storm) displays brilliant orchestral writing in a warmly vibrant work that expresses the god’s battle with the drought. Many British composers admired the mystical poetry of Walt Whitman, and Holst honored him in his Walt Whitman Overture composed seven years after the poet’s death.
Holst’s Japanese Suite, written at a later period in his life, was composed at the request of the Japanese dancer Michio Ito for his performance at the London Coliseum. Ito provided Holst with some authentic Japanese melodies as a basis for the work. It opens with a striking cadenza for solo bassoon, and betrays telling fingerprints of The Planets, which Holst had just completed.
The excellent recording team of Tim Handley and Phil Rowland praised the extraordinary acoustics of the Ulster Hall.