Imogen Holst: Discovering Imogen

Imogen Holst: Discovering Imogen

NMC Recordings
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Release date: 6 September 2024

Featuring many world-premiere recordings, this album highlights the work of one of Britian’s most accomplished composers in performances by BBC Concert Orchestra and BBC Singers with conductor Alice Farnham.

The works on the recording include the Overture Persephone from 1929; the earlier Suite in F Allegro assai for strings 1927; Suite for Strings from 1943 (the only piece on this album to have previously received a professional performance); Variations on ‘Loth to Depart’, composed in 1962; What Man is He? from the 1940s; Festival Anthem, composed in 1946 and orchestrated by Colin Matthews; and finally, On Westhall Hill completes the album. What Man is He? and Festival Anthem, both receive their first performance on this recording.

Imogen Holst was pivotal in the founding of NMC Recordings with composer Colin Matthews. Holst’s establishment of the Holst Foundation not long before she died in 1984, ultimately went on to ensure that NMC was set-up to continue the Foundation’s support of the work of living composers.

Colin Matthews, Composer and Founder of NMC Recordings said: ‘This major album released to mark NMC’s 35th anniversary could hardly be more appropriate, since if it had not been for Imogen Holst, NMC would very likely never have come into being. When together we set up the Holst Foundation, not long before her death in 1984, Imogen made it clear that its future role should not be to subsidise her father’s music, but as a means to support the work of living composers. We talked at length about the possibility of funding recordings, and although it took a while to get NMC off the ground, I have always known that the label was founded with her blessing, and that she would have approved wholeheartedly of what has been accomplished since 1989.

Imo [as Imogen Holst was fondly known] was hopelessly evasive if you asked her about her music, and although I knew she had composed throughout her life it was not until after her death that we discovered quite how extensive her catalogue is – well over 200 works, many of them arrangements or on a small scale, but many substantial pieces as well. And quite a number of these larger works remained unperformed, as if simply set aside while she was preoccupied with her many teaching roles, as well as promoting the music of her father.

It has been a great pleasure to pay tribute to Imo with this recording – something which would probably have surprised her but surely also pleased her greatly. The album boasts simply wonderful playing in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studio 1 by the BBC Concert Orchestra, and what a treat to have the impeccable BBC Singers, all conducted by Alice Farnham.’

BBC Concert Orchestra 
BBC Singers
Alice Farnham conductor