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Holst Perfect Fool Opera


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jonah
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« on: July 30, 2021, 10:04:15 pm »

Lyrita will be issuing Sir Charles Grovesí BBCNSO recording of Holstís Perfect Fool opera on 3rd September
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Lionel Harrison
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« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2021, 10:24:03 pm »

Lyrita will be issuing Sir Charles Grovesí BBCNSO recording of Holstís Perfect Fool opera on 3rd September

That's great news, jonah, thanks. It's a disgrace that, as far as I'm aware, this fine and characteristic opera by one of the true greats of 20th century English music has never received a commercial recording. I guess this is a transfer of a broadcast rather than a glossy SACD but still, it's to be welcomed with three cheers. It will be interesting to compare it with the version conducted by Tod Handley which is in the BIMA. The Perfect Fool is not the only the only significant piece by Holst (indeed, not the only significant opera by Holst) that still awaits a good, modern recording. We British really ought to be ashamed of ourselves.
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cilgwyn
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« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2021, 02:23:04 am »

Yeeeeeeeeehoooooooooo! Smiley Ahem! Roll Eyes Grin This is exciting! Only yesterday,I was playing the ballet music from the opera,and I was thinking about the opera from which it came and why,oh why (not Delilah! Grin) it had still not received a cd release in the form of a new recording or release of one of the BBC recordings! So,odd to read this news now,in the circumstances! I've also been thinking of putting the opera on. (I've got the Handley recording on a cd-r) Hearing the ballet in it's original context is fascinating. The libretto may not be one of the best,but Holst's music is imaginative and colorful,and I always enjoy the opera when I put it on. I remember Rob Barnett,at Musicweb,saying that he thought emi missed the boat in not recording it. I think it is a more entertaining listen than At the Boar's Head or The Wandering Scholar & it is ridiculous that it has not been available on cd,by now! I pestered Chandos about recording it,on their,now defunct (as far as I'm aware) forum. Just once,they replied and said they would suggest a recording to Andrew Davis. Sadly,nothing came of it! This is very good news,jonah! I'm a big fan of Holst,by the way!
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« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2021, 08:12:12 am »

Lyrita will be issuing Sir Charles Grovesí BBCNSO recording of Holstís Perfect Fool opera on 3rd September

Excellent. This will complement Vernon Handley's 1995 broadcast which is in BIMA.

 Smiley
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"A piece is worth your attention, and is itself for you praiseworthy, if it makes you feel you have not wasted your time over it." (Sydney Grew, 1922)
Lionel Harrison
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« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2021, 09:10:56 am »

I think it is a more entertaining listen than At the Boar's Head or The Wandering Scholar

Agreed!
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Albion
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« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2021, 12:24:26 pm »

I assume the three broadcasts listed (1967, 1968 and 1974) are of the same performance -

https://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/search/0/20?q=holst+perfect+fool+groves#top

 Smiley

Ah, the perils of scanning in copies of the Radio Times and not checking afterwards:

Fourth of six programmes ot of Hoist's less frequently beard music



 Cheesy
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Lionel Harrison
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« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2021, 12:57:02 pm »

I assume the three broadcasts listed (1967, 1968 and 1974) are of the same performance -

https://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/search/0/20?q=holst+perfect+fool+groves#top

 Smiley

Ah, the perils of scanning in copies of the Radio Times and not checking afterwards:

Fourth of six programmes ot of Hoist's less frequently beard music



 Cheesy

 Grin

I found the comments by Imogen Holst under the 1967 broadcast interesting. They offer a small but endearing insight into Gustav Holst the man. Clearly, she also approved of Groves's approach to her pa's opera!
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paul corfield godfrey
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« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2021, 01:42:41 pm »

I hate to pour cold water on this reissue, and it will be interesting to hear the Groves performance again, but I had a home-made cassette copy of the performance for many years and it doesn't bear comparison with the later Handley version already in the archive.

In the first place the Groves version is crudely, and irrationally, cut. Lots of small snips are made here and there for no very obvious reason. Some of them may perhaps be laid at Imogen Holst's door, since in her book on her father's music she made some highly disparaging comments about some of the dialogue; but some of the phrases to which she particularly objected are left intact, while others are removed. But the Handley performance, complete in every respect, makes it clear that any abridgement is most unwelcome. The beautiful (albeit brief) pastoral episode where the shepherd describes his grazing sheep is omitted in its entirety.

Secondly, we are afflicted with an intrusive narrator who describes the action as it proceeds. This was a standard BBC technique at the time, but this is a particularly bad example since the narrator frequently talks over the music - and since he is close to the microphone, masks it. Also some of the sung words are altered to make the action clearer for home listeners, not to the advantage of the music. And there are added sound effects, including the Fool at one point yawning very loudly right into the microphone with sufficient volume to drown out the Troubadour.

Thirdly, the singing on the later Handley recording is generally considerably superior and the Princess - for example - gives us the optional high D towards the end which Groves's soprano ducks. And the recorded quality on the Handley is far superior to the rather boomy acoustic which provides plenty of body for the Groves but obscures much of the inner detail.

It is a total mystery to me why the Handley version - excellent in most respects - has never been licensed for issue on CD, or even given away as a cover-mount on BBC Music Magazine. It was given high priority billing at Christmas when it was first broadcast, and has been comprehensively forgotten since.
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Lionel Harrison
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« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2021, 02:47:59 pm »

I hate to pour cold water on this reissue, and it will be interesting to hear the Groves performance again, but I had a home-made cassette copy of the performance for many years and it doesn't bear comparison with the later Handley version already in the archive.

In the first place the Groves version is crudely, and irrationally, cut. Lots of small snips are made here and there for no very obvious reason. Some of them may perhaps be laid at Imogen Holst's door, since in her book on her father's music she made some highly disparaging comments about some of the dialogue; but some of the phrases to which she particularly objected are left intact, while others are removed. But the Handley performance, complete in every respect, makes it clear that any abridgement is most unwelcome. The beautiful (albeit brief) pastoral episode where the shepherd describes his grazing sheep is omitted in its entirety.

Secondly, we are afflicted with an intrusive narrator who describes the action as it proceeds. This was a standard BBC technique at the time, but this is a particularly bad example since the narrator frequently talks over the music - and since he is close to the microphone, masks it. Also some of the sung words are altered to make the action clearer for home listeners, not to the advantage of the music. And there are added sound effects, including the Fool at one point yawning very loudly right into the microphone with sufficient volume to drown out the Troubadour.

Thirdly, the singing on the later Handley recording is generally considerably superior and the Princess - for example - gives us the optional high D towards the end which Groves's soprano ducks. And the recorded quality on the Handley is far superior to the rather boomy acoustic which provides plenty of body for the Groves but obscures much of the inner detail.

It is a total mystery to me why the Handley version - excellent in most respects - has never been licensed for issue on CD, or even given away as a cover-mount on BBC Music Magazine. It was given high priority billing at Christmas when it was first broadcast, and has been comprehensively forgotten since.

Nothing wrong with a copious downpouring of cold water, Paul; it can be most refreshing! Thank you for a fascinating insight from one who is clearly fully informed.  Smiley It definitely looks as though I shall be remaining faithful to Tod Handley's version then...
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Albion
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« Reply #9 on: July 31, 2021, 04:32:35 pm »

It is a total mystery to me why the Handley version - excellent in most respects - has never been licensed for issue on CD, or even given away as a cover-mount on BBC Music Magazine. It was given high priority billing at Christmas when it was first broadcast, and has been comprehensively forgotten since.

It hasn't been forgotten here! Yes, I would prefer the Handley version to be commercially released as well, together with Barry Wordsworth's wonderful interpretation of Hecuba's Lament (also broadcast in 1995) - just the right length for a CD! I presume that the Lyrita release has no coupling item.

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cilgwyn
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« Reply #10 on: August 01, 2021, 06:45:55 pm »

I hate to pour cold water on this reissue, and it will be interesting to hear the Groves performance again, but I had a home-made cassette copy of the performance for many years and it doesn't bear comparison with the later Handley version already in the archive.

In the first place the Groves version is crudely, and irrationally, cut. Lots of small snips are made here and there for no very obvious reason. Some of them may perhaps be laid at Imogen Holst's door, since in her book on her father's music she made some highly disparaging comments about some of the dialogue; but some of the phrases to which she particularly objected are left intact, while others are removed. But the Handley performance, complete in every respect, makes it clear that any abridgement is most unwelcome. The beautiful (albeit brief) pastoral episode where the shepherd describes his grazing sheep is omitted in its entirety.

Secondly, we are afflicted with an intrusive narrator who describes the action as it proceeds. This was a standard BBC technique at the time, but this is a particularly bad example since the narrator frequently talks over the music - and since he is close to the microphone, masks it. Also some of the sung words are altered to make the action clearer for home listeners, not to the advantage of the music. And there are added sound effects, including the Fool at one point yawning very loudly right into the microphone with sufficient volume to drown out the Troubadour.

Thirdly, the singing on the later Handley recording is generally considerably superior and the Princess - for example - gives us the optional high D towards the end which Groves's soprano ducks. And the recorded quality on the Handley is far superior to the rather boomy acoustic which provides plenty of body for the Groves but obscures much of the inner detail.

It is a total mystery to me why the Handley version - excellent in most respects - has never been licensed for issue on CD, or even given away as a cover-mount on BBC Music Magazine. It was given high priority billing at Christmas when it was first broadcast, and has been comprehensively forgotten since.

Nothing wrong with a copious downpouring of cold water, Paul; it can be most refreshing! Thank you for a fascinating insight from one who is clearly fully informed.  Smiley It definitely looks as though I shall be remaining faithful to Tod Handley's version then...
My heart did sink,somewhat,when I looked the forthcoming cd up,and read Imogen Holst's comments made at the time of the Groves broadcast! This gorgeous,colourful score really does need to heard in stereo;but,I thought,oh well,I quite like old mono recordings and maybe it will be a good performance? It is true,that an old mono opera (or operetta) recording can,sometimes,be better than a newer,stereo one? (I'm not referring to sound quality,of course!) But from what you have told us here,I think I will be sticking to Handley,too! I noticed that the Groves performance is on Youtube. It did say that the recording was incomplete! Actually,I've just looked at it,and that's where I read what Imogen Holst wrote! Someone's mum was one of the 'girls',though! Nice! Smiley It's just a pity that a rare chance to hear the work was marred in such a way! Dear oh dear! Roll Eyes I was so hoping that Lyrita would release this opera! But,unlike those mono G & S broadcasts from 1966,which are very,very good,this one sounds like one to.............I was going to say avoid;but I thnk I'll sample it online?!! Sad
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« Reply #11 on: August 01, 2021, 07:45:10 pm »

My heart did sink,somewhat,when I looked the forthcoming cd up,and read Imogen Holst's comments made at the time of the Groves broadcast! This gorgeous,colourful score really does need to heard in stereo;but,I thought,oh well,I quite like old mono recordings and maybe it will be a good performance? It is true,that an old mono opera (or operetta) recording can,sometimes,be better than a newer,stereo one? (I'm not referring to sound quality,of course!) But from what you have told us here,I think I will be sticking to Handley,too! I noticed that the Groves performance is on Youtube. It did say that the recording was incomplete! Actually,I've just looked at it,and that's where I read what Imogen Holst wrote! Someone's mum was one of the 'girls',though! Nice! Smiley It's just a pity that a rare chance to hear the work was marred in such a way! Dear oh dear! Roll Eyes I was so hoping that Lyrita would release this opera! But,unlike those mono G & S broadcasts from 1966,which are very,very good,this one sounds like one to.............I was going to say avoid;but I thnk I'll sample it online?!! Sad

My thoughts exactly. Handley's version is complete, in stereo and beautifully performed - a far better advocacy for the opera one would have thought. And yes, the BBC archive is there to be mined - the treasures that are currently preserved in aspic...



 Roll Eyes
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cilgwyn
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« Reply #12 on: August 01, 2021, 10:21:42 pm »

A missed opportunity,if ever there was! I feel,somewhat,gutted!! Recording labels make some strange decisions,sometimes,don't they? Groves cut & someone yapping over the music vs an uncut Handley in stereo?! Which would you go for?!!  As they say,'Itch nort rocket sciunce!' Oh well,I'll feel better after I  'dig out' my nice cd-r! Smiley Smiley Smiley
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Lionel Harrison
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« Reply #13 on: August 01, 2021, 10:29:12 pm »

A missed opportunity,if ever there was! I feel,somewhat,gutted!! Recording labels make some strange decisions,sometimes,don't they? Groves cut & someone yapping over the music vs an uncut Handley in stereo?! Which would you go for?!!  As they say,'Itch nort rocket sciunce!' Oh well,I'll feel better after I  'dig out' my nice cd-r! Smiley Smiley Smiley

Yers, it seems as if we got all excited and then it turned out to be a damp squib. As you say, back to Handley, on an external hard drive, in my case!  Grin
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« Reply #14 on: September 06, 2021, 01:10:36 pm »

Well,I got my wish! But like in some of those old fairy stories,it didn't quite turn out the way I wanted it to!! Roll Eyes Sad Grin Unless some other small label coughs up the Handley broacast,the best hope is for a new recording! Or perhaps a small,provincial operatic company will decide to put it on & a recording will follow (as per,Stanford's Travelling Comanion). But brilliant orchestral writing needs a professional orchestra! And wobbly soloists don't help! When Boughton's Immortal Hour and VW's The Poisoned Kiss were released,they benefited from top notch performances. The sort of recording where you have to make allowances for wobbly soloists can do more damage than good!

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