It was well received by critics both at the time of its premiere and in subsequent recordings. I concede that there are formal issues with the use of carols for thematic material and that the composer may overwork some of the tunes, however, on the whole I believe that VHH handles his material and its development in a convincing manner. The orchestration is often quite magical.
I suggest listening to VHH’s Overture to a Pantomime or the The Young Idea: rhapsody for piano & orchestra (1928). Both are ‘light’ pieces of music: it was his speciality. No need to look for profundity or mould breaking in his music.
For me, the Carol Symphony is one of my Christmas favourites that I listen to every year…
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