I HOLST String Chamber Music
This is a delightful, intelligently programmed disc, charting the development of a composer known more as a famous composer’s daughter (and another’s sometime assistant – Britten’s, at Aldeburgh) than as a serious creator in her own right.
Reissued by NMC with a new dust cover but essentially the disc reviewed by Jeremy Dibble in March 2009, the programme is framed by the early Cobbett Prize-winning Phantasy Quartet (1928), very much in the pastoral tradition of the time, and the late, almost impressionistic String Quintet (1982), written just two years before Imogen Holst’s death. The four intervening works reveal the various styles and techniques she investigated over time, disposed on the disc to maximise textural contrast.
By 1930 she had begun to absorb French models, her marvellous Sonata for violin and cello undoubtedly influenced by Ravel’s from 1922. A leaner, starker tone haunts the wartime String Trio No 1 (1944), which battles between E and C, and the Duo for viola and piano (1968) where dodecaphony, rooted in C, is touched on. Yet always, as in the three short solo cello studies The Fall of the Leaf (1962), her own quiet voice is discernible. Terrific performances and sound; I’ve had it on loop.