• Gustav Holst
  • The Perfect Fool (1922)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)
  • 2+pic.2+ca.2+bcl.2+cbn4431timp.percxyl.cel.hpstr
  • 2+pic.222/4231/timp.perc.hp/str
  • 2Soprano, Contralto, Tenor, Baritone, 2Bass, 2 Speaking parts
  • 1 hr 3 min

Programme Note

BRIEF SYNOPSIS

Holst’s comic opera, The Perfect Fool, written in 1918-22, begins with a ballet which is danced by Spirits of Earth, Water and Fire. A wizard summons the Earth Spirits with a trombone invocation that rises in energetic fury and descends with ponderous deliberation. When the clumsy, clod-hopping dance has reached its climax the Earth Spirits scurry underground, leaving the solo viola to call up the Spirits of the Water who bring ‘the essence of love distilled from Aether’. With the abrupt arrival of the Spirits of Fire the third dance crackles back to life.

PROGRAMME NOTE

Holst's comic opera, The Perfect Fool, written in 1918-22, begins with a ballet which is danced by Spirits of Earth, Water and Fire. A wizard, who is obviously related to 'Uranus the Magician' in The Planets, summons the Earth Spirits with a trombone invocation that rises in energetic fury and descends with ponderous deliberation. From the lowest depths of the orchestra the husky double-basses conjure up an appropriate earthiness. When the clumsy, clod-hopping dance has reached its climax the Earth Spirits scurry underground, leaving the solo viola to call up the Spirits of the Water with the calm notes of a legato invocation. The cool woodwind chords and the dripping fifths of the harp and celesta lead to the second dance, where, with the help of the flute, the Spirits of the Water bring 'the essence of love distilled form Aether'. With the abrupt arrival of the Spirits of Fire the third dance crackles into a sudden spurt of conflagration. The blaze approaches inch by inch, the staccato notes sounding as brittle as burning stubble. The listener has no need for the visual help of stage lighting and gestures, for the vitality of the leaping flames can clearly be heard in the brilliant orchestration.