Faber Music continues its longstanding musical relationship with Imogen Holst (1907-1984) in making newly available several choral and orchestral pieces, having previously published the composer's 1982 String Quintet decades ago. Holst was a critical figure in the history of post-war British music as composer, conductor, musicologist, editor, and educator, working closely with Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, the young Colin Matthews on her father’s music, and helping to set up what would become the Dartington International Summer School, as well as serving co-director of the Aldeburgh Festival.
The Suite for String Orchestra is cast in four movements and received its first performance at Wigmore Hall in 1943, conducted by the composer. The 15-minute piece opens with a lilting Prelude in 5/8 whose groupings of three and two beats fluctuate throughout with shifting time signatures; it is succeeded by a rambunctious fugue with a rugged folk-like subject in three. The third movement is a limpid intermezzo with a spotlight on a solo violin in its middle section. The finale is a scurrying Gigue (presto) that also carries the imprint of folk melodies, and sees the solo violin reappear.
Premiering at the same concert in 1943 as the Suite, Three Psalms combines strings and SSAATB chorus in a 14 ½-minute triptych. It begins with a searching setting of Psalm 80 (Give ear, O shepherd of Israel), followed by Psalm 56 (Be merciful unto me, O God), in which ATB only are accompanied by violas, cellos, and double basses. Ethereal, transparent textures return in the final movement, a setting of Psalm 91 (He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most high) which sees both voices and strings divide. Three Psalms was recorded in 2012 by Graham Ross, the Dimitri Ensemble, and the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge.
The same disc features Holst’s Mass in A Minor (1927), now available on special sale and as a download. The 18-minute Latin setting is for unaccompanied SSATB chorus; peruse the score online here. Michael Waldron conducts the Holst Singers in the Mass in A Minor in August at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.
Holst’s 1928 Phantasy for string quartet is a work from her student days, which will soon be available on special sale. The 9-minute work was recently programmed by the Flinders Quartet on their MusicaViva tour of Australia, alongside Carl Vine’s new guitar quintet Endless.
Future publication plans include Holst’s Overture ‘Persephone’ (1929) for orchestra, which she wrote whilst a student at the Royal College of Music, where it received its first performance from Malcolm Sargent.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information, hire enquiries, and updates about future publications of Imogen Holst’s music.