Thursday, May 17, 2012

Heavenly Holst

Thaxted in Essex is a pretty if unremarkable town, once famous for cutlery but now more famous for lending its name to Princess Diana's favourite hymn tune. The composer was a long term resident who in the early years of the Great War turned his attention from the unfolding horror on earth towards the heavens. Gustav Holst was ahead of his time in many ways. A collection of tone poems was a novel form in the early twentieth century. His appreciation of matters asterological nothing short of inspired. He resisted the temptation to add an eighth 'poem' to his Planets suite after the discovery of Pluto, years before astronomers delegated this diminutive rock to the status of dwarf planet. Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra take it at a rollicking pace. There are moments in 'Jupiter' when it feels rushed but it avoids the sentimentality that must tempt many conductors and at 43:06 is closer to Holst's own impressive 42:30 than most modern recordings.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

An extraordinary night in Sarajevo

At the winter olympics in Sarajevo in 1984 Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean scored a perfect 6.0 from all nine judges for their artistic interpretation of Maurice Ravel's Bolero; earning them Olympic gold, lasting fame and Ravel a new and avid fan base. It was an inspired routine, superbly matching the gradually increasing energy of this fine piece with ever more exciting and athletic skating. Paavo Jarvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra capture something of that extraordinary St Valentine's night at the Zetra stadium in their recording for Telarc (CD 80601). I'm not sure I need say any more than that - great stuff!