On this day in classical music: English composer Gustav Holst died in London in 1934. His early influences included Wagner, Strauss and Vaughan Williams. Holst would also count the music of Ravel, Hindu spiritualism and English folk tunes as prominent influences. Holst gained international attention with his epic suite “The Planets,” completed in 1916. The composer also contributed significantly to the wind band repertoire, with a pair of suites and a prelude and scherzo known as “Hammersmith.” Listen to Frederick Fenell and the Eastman Wind Ensemble perform the “Chaconne” from Holst’s “First Suite in E-Flat.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_E6Rv5kJ8U
On this day in the musical theatre: A revival of Jerome Kern’s “Leave It to Jane” opened Off-Broadway in 1959. With book and lyrics by P.G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton, “Leave It to Jane” focused on a football rivalry between Atwater College and Bingham College. Jane, the daughter of Atwater’s president, lures star halfback Billy to attend Atwater. He wins her heart and the big game against Bingham.
Musical musings: Two decades after Frederick Fennell recorded the two Holst suites for band with the legendary Eastman Wind Ensemble, he went back into the recording studio with a pickup ensemble known as the Cleveland Symphonic Winds. Most of the players were members of the prestigious Cleveland Orchestra and with the inspiring Fennell on the podium, the results were spectacular. These were the early days of the new digital recording process and Fennell took advantage of the medium’s ability to capture the loudest sounds without distortion. I remember the LP’s liner notes cautioned buyers to avoid playing the record at a higher than normal volume for fear of damaging their speakers. The recording engineers knew what they were talking about. The bass drum thwacks in the final measures of the first suite’s chaconne will literally lift you out of your chair. The effects are nothing short of spectacular.