CD review: Imogen Holst chamber music

First published in the Guardian on 18 September, 2017

Imogen Holst: String chamber music
Court Lane Music (NMC)

Imogen Holst is in the blood of NMC records: in 1984 – the year she died – she set up the foundation that would end up kickstarting the label five years later. And even through the core remit of NMC is to champion living British composers, it also does a noble line in saving important recordings that fall through the cracks. The opening chords of this album (originally released in 2009 but already out of print) alone prove the point of rescuing it. Holst’s music is potently expressive and generous, reminiscent but never maudlin. “I’d much rather be dealing with crotchets and quavers than people,” she once told Benjamin Britten, and although her music can be introverted, these superb performances by Court Lane Music make sure the huge warmth of the writing wins out. Holst was a life-long advocate of other English composers; we owe it to her, and to ourselves, to keep listening to her brave and confessional works.