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The Evening Watch, H159 Op 43 No 1

First line:
Farewell! I go to sleep; but when
author of text

The Evening Watch, H159 (Op 43 No 1), based on A Dialogue by the English metaphysical poet Henry Vaughan (1622–1695), is a beautiful setting for mezzo soprano and tenor solos and unaccompanied eight-part mixed choir; it was written in 1924. The ‘body’ is represented in turn by tenor and mezzo soprano soloists, the ‘soul’ by the full choir. The piece belongs to Holst’s neo-classical phase, typified by such large-scale works as the Fugal Overture and Fugal Concerto, the Choral Symphony, and the opera At the Boar’s Head. Works of this period tend towards a certain cerebral mode of expression as has already been noted in connection with the somewhat later Waddell translations. In this work much use is made of harmonies based on the superimposition of the interval of a fourth, often moving in ‘forbidden’ consecutives and parallel motion.

Holst includes a short footnote which states that ‘there should be no variation from sempre pp until near the end’, thereby ensuring that the music sustains a detached purity throughout. However, despite this apparently cool exterior, the composer consistently succeeds in illuminating the text in a manner that readily demonstrates his considerable musical insights and enviable technical skill. When, at the very end, the music gradually rises towards a final, emphatic fortissimo chord, the effect is one of a blaze of colour transforming a world of monochrome half-light. Throughout the motet the music representing the ‘body’ is unbarred and marked senza mesura, indicating that it is to be sung in a rhythmically free style.

from notes by Julian Haylock © 1989


Blessed spirit
COLCD127Download only
Holst: The Evening Watch & other choral works
Parry: Songs of Farewell
Studio Master: SIGCD267Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
The Evening Hour
Studio Master: SIGCD446Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available


Track 9 on CDH55170 [4'42]
Track 9 on COLCD127 [4'58] Download only
Track 1 on SIGCD267 [4'59] Download only
Track 11 on SIGCD446 [4'39] Download only

Track-specific metadata for CDA66329 track 9

Recording date
2 October 1988
Recording venue
St Paul's School for Girls, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Martin Compton
Recording engineer
Tony Faulkner
Hyperion usage
  1. Holst: The Evening Watch & other choral works (CDA66329)
    Disc 1 Track 9
    Release date: September 1989
    Deletion date: February 2004
    Superseded by CDH55170
  2. Holst: The Evening Watch & other choral works (CDH55170)
    Disc 1 Track 9
    Release date: February 2004
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