Holst: This have I done for my true love (CD Review - Gramophone Magazine, 2004)

For an object lesson in economy of means look no further than the magical setting of ""Terly Terlow"" accompanied by oboe and cello (from the Carols, H91). The richness of this music belies such meagre resources and while the Holst Singers produce a warmth of tone and range of expression which brings out every ounce of beauty from the song, it is a testament to Holst's skill that this, and its similarly scored companion ""A Welcome Song"", sound so full bodied and complete.

Part-songs, of which this single disc can only offer a representative selection, were in many ways central to Holst's output. The earliest dates from 1896, the latest (Holst's last choral composition O Spiritual Pilgrim) from 1933. During this period he passed from being a student, a touring orchestral musician and a girls' school teacher into the realms of international acclaim as the composer of The Planets (a fascinating pre-echo of the closing bars of ""Neptune"" is found in The Princess where a second choir is placed in an adjoining room so that a door can gradually be closed to create a fade-out effect). The styles and influences are as multifarious as were the choirs and singers for whom the songs were written.

The Holst Singers cope with such unerring conviction with the particular technical and musical demands, which such diversity within short, compact structures places on any single choir. Their beautifully pure sound easily moulds itself to the character of each song, while Stephen Layton's unfussy, tightly controlled direction keeps everything perfectly in proportion. Diction (not least in the Welsh language song ""Mae'n ghariad i'n Fenws, mae'n ghariad i'n fain"") is natural and clear, without ever obscuring the fluidity of Holst's musical lines. Above all, they convey a sense of involvement in each song which makes this disc a joy to listen through without interruption.

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