Holst’s magisterial work The Cloud Messenger was composed over 1903-10, and first performed in 1913 at the old Queen’s Hall in London. Although it is rarely performed, this masterwork deserves to be much better known, and Joseph Fort’s new chamber version, made from a manuscript held in the library of Yale University, is intended to stimulate further awareness of the piece.
The work sets, in Holst’s own English translation, a Sanskrit poem dating from around the fifth century. Kalidasa’s Meghaduta tells the story of a yaksa who is exiled by a powerful god, and separated from his wife, who is now living on Mount Kailasa in the Himalayas. After eight months of separation, the yaksa spies a passing cloud, heading into the Himalayas, and asks the cloud to carry a message of love to his wife. The story recounts the detail of the clouds journey up to the mountain peak, culminating in the message of love, and Holst sets it to music that is both romantic and otherworldly.
‘Conductor Joseph Fort has made a lean but faithful chamber version…expertly played by The Strand Ensemble and warmly sung by the well-blended Choir of King’s College London’ – Fiona Maddocks, The Observer
‘…a gorgeously intimate performance by the Choir of King’s College London and The Strand Ensemble…an invaluable contribution to Holst scholarship’ – Ken Walton, The Scotsman
‘The performance is excellent…The choir sings very well. They produce a fresh appealing sound that suits the music to a tee…Joseph Fort has done an outstandingly successful job in reducing Holst’s original scoring in a way that is stylish and utterly respectful of the original…This is an enterprising and significant addition to the Holst discography.’ – John Quinn, MusicWeb International
'Here we get conductor Joseph Fort’s new chamber reduction, effective because so much was already lightly scored. And using a crack chamber choir means that every word is audible, Fort’s Choir of King’s College London boldly taking ownership of the piece…Excellent notes, full texts and impressively warm sound too.’ – The Arts Desk
‘This colourful chamber version by Joseph Fort lends the more tender passages a new intimacy and clarity, while retaining much of the force of the original and preparing the foundations for a new life in performance…Fort and his forces deliver the piece with exhilarating intensity and their sense of musicality is powerfully moving.’ – Gerald Fenech, Classical Music Daily
‘…harmonically expressive and emotively touching…sung here with committed care and attention to nuance and depth of feeling by the Choir of King’s College London.’ – Jean-Yves Dupperon, Classical Music Sentinel
‘…an impressive and important disc. Fort and his young singers are on virtuoso form and, well partnered by the Strand Ensemble, bring out the strengths of Holst’s neglected choral ode. It will be on the necessary listening lists of most lovers of English music.’ – Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill
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This project is supported by Arts Council England and by a King’s College London Faculty Research Grant.