wider musical public Imogen Holst is known, if at all,
as the daughter of Gustav Holst. She was the stern sentinel
of her father’s musical heritage. She will also perhaps
be recognised as the conductor of her father’s more ‘neo-classical’ works
on two Lyrita LPs of the late 1960s. These have been reissued
on CD (Lyrita
In fact she was also a composer of some distinction who,
so far as the conventions of her day would have it, laboured
under two clouds: that she was a woman and that she was
the child of a great composer. This disc opens the door
into her musical legacy.
span here encompassed by her music is wide. Imogen Holst's
journey was from poetic-ecstatic pastoral to a taut and
succinct economy of expression. The lyric impulse remains
a constant. This gift for the singing line is at its most
candid in the Phantasy Quartet
of 1928. This Cobbett
prize piece will gladden the heart of lovers of early Howells
chamber music. It captures the shivering seductive green
murmur of the English early summer yet expressed in an
almost Gallic ecstasy. You must hear this if you enjoy
the Howells Piano Quartet.
1982 String Quintet
was written 54 years later.
The string textures are just as carefully calculated but
the language is more reserved. Intriguing to hear the careful
English countryside skip in the step for the Scherzo
This is so redolent of Britten's Simple Symphony
Bridge's Sir Roger de Coverley
. The denser emotions
of the final Theme and Variations
are piercing and
its emotional world has a philosophical reserve about it.
she wrote a compact little Duo
for viola and piano.
This is energetic and Hindemithian - clear as spring-water
yet shot through with a moonlit Schoenbergian dissonance
she wrote her First String Trio
for the Dartington
Trio. It is a work in four movements – alive with stony,
spiky and searing dissonance borne down with foreboding.
There are moments here when one thinks of the Viennese-style
works of Frank Bridge such as the Piano Trio no.2
and the last two string quartets. A more chiming Englishry
can be heard in the andante
finale although this
soon coagulates and becomes acerbic and probing.
Fall of the Leaf
for solo cello and is based on a tune from the Fitzwilliam
Virginal book. The dedicatee was Pamela Hind O'Malley.
Steven Isslerlis speaks of the work's ‘quiet poetry'
and this catches its severe yet singing essence rather
well. It is in five miniature movements.
after the Phantasy Quartet came the three movement Sonata
for Violin and Cello
. It is as if Imogen Holst has
put direct-speaking English pastoralism back into the toy
box. This work moves into Bartók territory and is memorable
for marked rhythmic attack and for the lichen-hung reflective-meditative Adagio
It was written in Vienna.
notes are by Christopher Tinker. The playing is done with
much feeling and is always articulate. You will however
have to make allowances for the deep intakes of breath
from the players - it speaks of their emotional engagement
but some will find it irritating.
that there will be more Imogen Holst recordings. This cross-section
of her chamber works is evidence of her Continental credentials
cross-affecting her early predilection for rural idylls.