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HOLST, G.: Symphony, "The Cotswolds" / Walt Whitman, Overture / Indra / Japanese Suite / A Winter Idyll (Ulster Orchestra, Falletta)


Naxos 8.572914

   ClassicalCDReview.com, May 2014
   MusicWeb International, December 2012
   Fanfare, November 2012
   Fanfare, November 2012
   Fanfare, November 2012
   Fanfare, November 2012
   British Classical Music: The Land of Lost Content, August 2012
   Classical Music Sentinel, August 2012
   Pasatiempo, weekly insert in Santa Fe New Mexican, August 2012
   MusicWeb International, August 2012
   San Francisco Chronicle, August 2012
   Audio Video Club of Atlanta, August 2012
   Gramophone, August 2012
   Audiophile Audition, July 2012
   MusicWeb International, July 2012
   Presto Classical, July 2012
   ClassicsToday.com, July 2012
   Infodad.com, July 2012
   Allmusic.com, July 2012
   WCLV, July 2012
   BBC Music Magazine, July 2012
   Audiophilia, June 2012
   Culture Northern Ireland, June 2012
   David's Review Corner, June 2012
   Classicalsource.com

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Steve Schwartz
ClassicalCDReview.com, May 2014

Falletta does a beautiful job, if not a legendary one, and all for the price of a Naxos disc. The Ulsterfolk respond flexibly and sensitively to whatever she does and the sound holds up. © 2014 ClassicalCDReview.com Read complete review




Paul Corfield Godfrey
MusicWeb International, December 2012

It is marvellous to see Naxos and [JoAnn Falletta] riding to the rescue of Holst’s scandalously neglected early music (a neglect aided and abetted by the composer’s daughter). All of these works have been recorded before, but [Falletta] brings a fresh eye to the music. © 2012 MusicWeb International




Merlin Patterson
Fanfare, November 2012

I have always been a fan of the music of Gustav Holst, so every new recording of his lesser-known works is of great interest to me, especially when the performances are as superb as those delivered by JoAnn Falletta and the Ulster Orchestra on Naxos. © 2012 Fanfare



Phillip Scott
Fanfare, November 2012

This release is made up of Gustav Holst’s early orchestral music and, as ever, it is enlightening to hear the immature work of a great composer (which Holst most certainly was). The Walt Whitman Overture shows an undigested Wagnerian influence…The orchestral writing is confident nonetheless, particularly the composer’s adventurous use of the brass within the orchestral texture.

…the “Cotswolds” Symphony is enjoyable as music per se and, as with the overture and the even earlier tone poem A Winter Idyll , Holst’s technical assurance impresses.

The only piece on this disc to bring us a recognizable Holst is the Japanese Suite…In this work…we start to hear those transparent textures and persistent ostinati that speak of the composer’s mature style. Exotica it may be, but Holst shows genuine sensitivity in his representation of Japanese music.

JoAnn Falletta and the Ulster Orchestra are everything they should be: vigorous and energetic when called for, thoughtful and polished throughout, and well recorded…Falletta’s performances are good and this issue brings together a lot of interesting pieces. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review



Ronald E. Grames
Fanfare, November 2012

A Winter Idyll , the Walt Whitman Overture, and the “Cotswolds” Symphony, all effectively apprentice works…owe much to the example of the great German Romantics.

The symphony has had one previous recording on Classico with Douglas Bostock conducting. It is still available on other reissue labels, but Falletta’s performance improves on the earlier effort in every way. Tighter and weightier than Bostock in the main—though the scherzo is engagingly quicksilver—she convinces one that the symphony is much more than just a frame for the moving elegy for socialist visionary William Morris that comprises the second movement. Falletta similarly finds new depth in the transitional symphonic poem Indra (1903), emphasizing atmosphere and warmth…

The Japanese Suite is the one work here that is representative of the mature Holst, to the extent that any work can be said to represent a composer who notoriously hated to repeat himself. It reflects his developing interests in things Asian, and in folk music, and it shows him free of the old-school German romantic model.

…clearly there is some good chemistry going in Ulster between its fine orchestra and the new American principal conductor. One can only hope that there will be many more releases like this in the future, and in the superb sound provided by the Grammy-winning producer and engineer, Tim Handley and Phil Rowlands. Definitely a winner. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review



Barry Brenesal
Fanfare, November 2012

The tone poem A Winter Idyll was composed in 1897. It establishes a mood similar to the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s First (“Winter Dreams”) Symphony, only to quickly vitiate its effect by a second subject group that could just as easily be called Spring’s Arrived. The style of the piece mixes Brahms and Wagner, with an almost classical clarity, balancing of content, and effective use of three-part texture…

The Walt Whitman Overture and Symphony in F reveal Holst as a remarkable orchestrator even as early as his RAM years. He uses full sections, smaller groups, and individual solo instruments (especially the brass) excellently and idiomatically. He thinks in terms of specific instrumental colors. His textures are always clear, and counterpoint comes naturally to him.

I’ve never heard either JoAnn Falletta or the Ulster Orchestra in Wagner, but I’ll bet they could get the right sound without any apparent effort. Theirs is a transparent approach to Holst’s coruscating orchestration rather than a massive one, with an emphasis on momentum, rhythmic clarity, judiciously flexible phrasing, and well-balanced inner parts.

The engineering is excellent. This definitely belongs on the want list of any dedicated Holst fancier, and other listeners might want to at least sample its pleasures, too. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review



John France
British Classical Music: The Land of Lost Content, August 2012

The Overture…is an exciting piece of music that deserves an occasional airing at orchestral concerts.

[In] The ‘Cotswolds’ Symphony…The ‘finale’ is a joy to behold…this is a well-written piece of music…All in all it is an interesting work…

What is most remarkable about this work is the sheer brilliance of the orchestration.

The sound quality of this disc is excellent—as is expected from Naxos. The Ulster Orchestra under their Principal Conductor JoAnn Falletta give an authoritative account of these scores.

Holst enthusiasts will demand this new CD to sit alongside the earlier releases. It is encouraging that Naxos has chosen to record these relatively rare, but extremely worthy pieces. © 2012 British Classical Music: The Land of Lost Content Read complete review



Jean-Yves Duperron
Classical Music Sentinel, August 2012

Conductor JoAnn Falletta once again, as in this recording of music by Marcel Tyberg, demonstrates a versatility and an instant affinity to the composer at hand, and delivers a solid and uncluttered account. Well worth hearing as a precursive road map to ‘The Planets’. © 2012 Classical Music Sentinel Read complete review



James M. Keller
Pasatiempo, weekly insert in Santa Fe New Mexican, August 2012

On this CD, JoAnn Falletta conducts the Ulster Orchestra in polished interpretations of five symphonic works that suggest the remarkable breadth of this underrepresented and unusually intriguing composer. © 2012 Pasatiempo, weekly insert in Santa Fe New Mexican



John France
MusicWeb International, August 2012

Many years ago I recall talking to a lady at the Glasgow Promenade Concerts. We had just heard a fine performance of the ubiquitous The Planets. She suggested to me that it was unfortunate that there was not more music like this in the composer’s catalogue. The present CD to a large extent remedies this deficiency.

The sound quality of this disc is excellent—as is expected from Naxos. The Ulster Orchestra under their Principal Conductor JoAnn Falletta give an authoritative account of these scores.

It would be invidious to suggest which recording was ‘better’ than the other. Holst enthusiasts will demand this new CD to sit alongside the earlier releases. It is encouraging that Naxos has chosen to record these relatively rare, but extremely worthy pieces. This CD will appeal strongly to all those people who long for more of the same when it comes to The Planets … or at least music stylistically analogous to that work. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review




Joshua Koshman
San Francisco Chronicle, August 2012

…jaunty, appealing stuff, and the pieces all get persuasive and debonair renditions by the Ulster Orchestra under the baton of JoAnn Falletta. The one real standout here is the “Cotswolds” Symphony of 1900—or at least, its slow movement, a broad, gloriously Bruckneresque elegy for the artist and socialist William Morris. The rest of the symphony, an early work, is comparatively flimsy, but the slow movement is a small masterpiece of majesty and emotional power… © 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Read complete review



Phil Muse
Audio Video Club of Atlanta, August 2012

The present CD offers…plenty of examples of [Holst’s] brilliant sure-handed orchestrations, in performances by the finely mettled Ulster Orchestra under its American principal conductor, JoAnn Falletta.

One of the finest pieces here is “Interlude: Song of the Fisherman,” with its gloriously hued opening that seems to evoke a sunrise…Indra (1903), inspired by the Hindu legend of the rain god who subdued a vengeful demon, features a big, magnificently structured climax from which one gathers that the poor demon never stood a chance!

…thanks to the compact disc, you can return weeks or months later to a delightful Holst program such as Falletta and the Ulster present here and be refreshed by it as if you were hearing the music for the first time! © 2012 Audio Video Club of Atlanta



Jeremy Dibble
Gramophone, August 2012

…it is good to hear these works played with such panache by the Ulster Orchestra under their new principal conductor, JoAnn Falletta, who gives the Cotswolds Symphony a more vigorous outing than does Douglas Bostock with the Munich SO. The slightly later symphonic poem Indra, Op 13 (1903), though still stylistically inchoate, reveals a major step forwards in terms of the exotic material used to reflect the subject of the Indian legend. Even more exotic, however, is the much more characteristic Japanese Suite, Op 33 (1916), a fascinating precursor to The Planets. Infused with techniques and sounds that arose from sounds [Holst] drew from hearing Stravinsky for the first time, the work is beautifully performed here, most notably the delicate, crystalline sounds of celesta, harp, woodwind and horn. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone




Robert Moon
Audiophile Audition, July 2012

This is a disc of early works, Romantic in the tradition of [Holst’s] fellow countrymen Parry and Stanford. Heavily influenced by Wagner, the Walt Whitman Overture (1899) is a dramatic and buoyant ode to the American poet, whose blend of the transcendental and the realistic was attractive to the young Holst.  Even better is the Cotswolds Symphony…Filled with delightful English folk themes and centered by a touching Elgarian elegy to the textile designer, artist and utopian socialist William Morris, this work reveals Holst to be an important composer. A sense of nationalistic pride pervades this work, appropriate for a youth in an age when the British empire was at its zenith.

A Winter Idyll (1897) successfully integrates drama with melody…

The symphonic poem Indra (1903) reflects Holst’s interest in Indian philosophy. Resplendent with beautiful melodies and a ferocious battle sequence, it summarizes the works on this disc of early Holst orchestral works: dramatic and beautiful; music ravishingly orchestrated and delightful to the ear. JoAnn Falleta and the Ulster Orchestra perform it with gusto and affection, and the recording is excellent. © 2012 Audiophile Audition Read complete review



Paul Corfield Godfrey
MusicWeb International, July 2012

…all of these earlier releases are at least equalled if not surpassed by these superlative performances under Falletta, who makes it clear that she is certain that this music needs absolutely no apology to be made for it. The orchestral playing is better than in the Bostock recordings made in Munich, extremely valuable as those were; Bostock is considerably slower in the symphony. Falletta has a more sympathetic touch than Atherton.

…we should be most grateful for this superb compilation which, I hope, will introduce purchasers to some really worthwhile and rewarding music. I wish it all possible success. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review



Chris O’Reilly
Presto Classical, July 2012

…the 1899 Walt Whitman Overture reminds me mainly of Schumann, but the four-movement Cotswold Symphony that follows displays far more individuality. There are hints of folk music in the opening movement, and a quite profound and mature sounding slow movement. It is followed by a playful scherzo and a really well-crafted and catchy finale.

Of the other works on here I found the Symphonic poem Indra the most interesting…it gradually builds to a tremendous climax which brings the whole disc to a memorable end. There are undoubted glimpses of the Planets—particularly in some of the brass and percussion writing—and all the music receives a committed and enthusiastic response from both orchestra and conductor. In fact, that’s probably an understatement as Falletta inspires some moments of real fire and excitement. The recorded sound is very good and the balance within the orchestra superb. © 2012 Presto Classical




David Hurwitz
ClassicsToday.com, July 2012

This disc contains a wealth of relatively unfamiliar music, although all of it has been recorded before. Holst’s “The Cotswolds” Symphony deserves credit for its untraditional approach to form: it’s basically a lively and unpretentious framework for the touching second-movement Elegy (In memoriam William Morris). The Walt Whitman Overture… [is] a lively and slightly anonymous piece that’s good, clean fun. A Winter Idyll, the earliest work on the disc, begins with a surprisingly violent gesture and then quickly calms down, but never loses focus or lacks freshness.

The two major works, though, are the Japanese Suite (contemporaneous with The Planets) and the tone poem Indra. Here the mature composer is obvious, nowhere more so than in the Dance of the Marionette…with its repeated rhythms and delicate writing for the glockenspiel. The performances are first rate in all respects…JoAnn Falletta gets an enthusiastic response from the Ulster Orchestra, and her interpretive choices (tempos especially) sound unerringly right. The engineering is clean and clear; it suits the music. A fine disc. © 2012 ClassicsToday.com Read complete review



Infodad.com, July 2012

…a solid and attractive performance from the Ulster Orchestra under its principal conductor, JoAnn Falletta. The first, second and fourth movements of the symphony are fairly straightforward and display the influence of Wagner as well as some hints of folk music, but the second movement—written in memory of utopian socialist William Morris—is considerably more heartfelt and comes across quite effectively. Wagner’s influence also shows in Holst’s Walt Whitman Overture (1899), which—like “The Cotswolds”—was influenced by Holst’s sociopolitical interests. A Winter Idyll is an even earlier work…The orchestral writing here is mature…The other two offerings on this CD are later: Indra, a tone poem based on an Indian legend about a demon and the god of the heavens…and the Japanese Suite, written for a Japanese dancer and choreographer…Both works show Holst’s mature style more clearly, incorporating as they do the harmonies and rhythms of the musical traditions of other nations within a Western orchestral framework that is handled with delicacy and grace. Falletta, a strong advocate of less-known music, gets fine sound from the orchestra in all these works and makes a good case for all of them, and indeed for Holst’s music in general. © 2012 Infodad.com Read complete review




Blair Sanderson
Allmusic.com, July 2012

The orchestra delivers satisfying performances, and Falletta leads with great control and clarity, so all the pieces feel fully realized and exciting to play. © 2012 Allmusic.com Read complete review



Jerome Crossley
WCLV, July 2012

Before the planets, there was—well, the pre-solar nebula, or so I’m told. But before Holst’s great orchestral suite The Planets, there was music like the Walt Whitman Overture, Winter Idyll, and Indra. Such is the area of exploration of this new disc from Naxos. It’s all appealing, if minor, music, ably performed by JoAnn Falletta and the Ulster Orchestra. © 2012 WCLV Read complete review



Daniel Jaffé
BBC Music Magazine, July 2012

There are three remaining rarities. The Walt Whitman Overture is indebted to Brahms’s Second Symphony. The Cotswolds Symphony includes a powerful, Wagnerian ‘Elegy: In Memoriam William Morris’, framed by a rather flimsy first movement, a jolly Scherzo and a banal Finale. © 2012 BBC Music Magazine



James Norris
Audiophilia, June 2012

[Holst’s] Walt Whitman overture is a bright and energetic piece which shows Holst as an accomplished orchestrator and like the Cotswold Symphony provides some fine parts for the orchestra brass section.

JoAnn Falletta and the Ulster Orchestra have produced an important sound document charting Holst’s early work and the performances are strong with some fine brass playing, particularly in the symphony. Well worth exploring if you are a fan of Holst and English musical rarities. © 2012 Audiophilia Read complete review



Terry Blain
Culture Northern Ireland, June 2012

It’s been five years since the Ulster Orchestra released a CD, this stirring, bouyant recording was worth the wait

…this album paints a picture of an orchestra in robustly healthy and responsive fettle. It’s early days yet in the Falletta era, but the signs are that her crisp, incisive baton technique, and deft balancing of complicated orchestral textures, are already tangibly sharpening the aural impression the Ulster Orchestra makes collectively in performance.

This cleverly planned CD has Falletta’s discriminating fingerprints all over it, and should find a ready place in any self-respecting Holst collection. © 2012 Culture Northern Ireland Read complete review



David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2012

Holst’s seldom played orchestral music makes a welcome disc debut for the Ulster Orchestra with their newly appointed American principal conductor, JoAnn Falletta. Though it was the orchestral showpiece, The Planets, that made Holst’s name famous around the world, he wrote a very small amount in this genre. Indeed, if Naxos were to add just one more CD to the four already available they would be the only label offering his complete orchestral scores. All five works on the disc were unpublished in his lifetime, A Winter Idyll and Indra using manuscripts loaned to make this recording. He was, neither by parentage nor musical inclination, an English composer, and in learning his craft from Stanford at London’s Royal College of Music, his mentor’s in-built Germanic influence was passed on. From his twenty-third year, his earliest orchestral score, A Winter Idyll, is a work full of charm that owes much to Wagner. Even in a gesture to his homeland, ‘The Cotswold’ Symphony seems to be in the rolling landscape of Bavaria rather than England. The disc opens with the spirited Walt Whitman Overture from 1899, and then jumping three years forward, we find a stylistic shift to the robust and dramatic quality of the substantial tone poem, Indra, a story based on the Indian legend of the god of rain and storms. Only the six pieces that form the Japanese Suite come from his maturity, and around the time of The Planets. I have the utmost admiration for Falletta, and with her direction I am sure the Ulster Orchestra are on the verge of a new golden era. Certainly the playing is of a high quality throughout, and, together with the excellent recording team, the disc is highly desirable. © 2012 David’s Review Corner



Colin Anderson
Classicalsource.com

A disc of rarities from Gustav Holst (1874-1934) is the opening offering, a collection of attractive works…

Given Falletta’s American citizenship, she’s a native New Yorker, opening the disc with Holst’s Walt Whitman Overture is a smart move. [Whitman’s] musical response bustles and blossoms exuberantly, with some sweet lyricism along the way; this is the Englishness of Parry and Stanford (although it is almost too easy to say this) but Holst’s confidence is his own.

The Symphony known as ‘The Cotswolds’ (1900) is lopsided movement-wise, opening with one that is perky and uncomplicated: robust, folksy and with a slap of the tweed-wearing thigh. This non-symphony (let it be said) includes the eloquent and deeply felt ‘Elegy (In memoriam William Morris)’. The more one listens to Holst’s tribute to him, the more one finds in it; the climaxes sear and are positively horn-capped or trumpet-laden (making Richard Strauss seem shy). The final two movements might be better reversed, for the amiable opening of ‘Finale’ seems an anti-climax (and we also wait a little too long for it) after the hale and hearty ‘Scherzo’ in which the composer revels in rhythmic ingenuity, deft scoring and culminating excitement; that said the last movement has much melodic charm and Holst continues to keep his eye on a celebratory conclusion.

Indra (1903) is the longest single movement here (16 minutes) and concerns the god of heavens and conflict; one hears storm clouds in this dramatic orchestral narrative, scored with sensuous iridescence. It’s a gripping and thrilling piece, full of atmosphere and suggestion. A Winter Idyll (1897) is also vivid—pulsing, shapely and frostily decorative with a real sense of purpose. Whereas the six vignettes of the Japanese Suite (written while The Planets was in full production) are evocative and haunting, moving easefully from one movement to another with precise imagination and far away from pastiche.

The Ulster Orchestra responds excellently to its recently appointed conductor. The brass section is especially notable, heroic horns, fearless trumpets and—Holst’s own instrument—growly trombones…the recorded sound is spacious, lucid and dynamically expansive. There is no doubt that a distinctive partnership is being forged between JoAnn Falletta and the Ulster Orchestra. Future releases are keenly anticipated. © 2012 Classicalsource.com Read complete review






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