Imogen Holst: Choral Works / Choir of Clare College, Cambridge


I have been listening to and enjoying this CD at intervals over the past several months. At some point, being so handily close by, it became my touchstone in the assessment of other choral albums that came my way. Of those that had to stand in comparison, few made the cut. The performances by the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge and the Dmitri Ensemble under Graham Ross are simply exemplary.

Imogen Holst (1907-1984) was the sole child of composer Gustav Holst. She was a composer, teacher and performer. The music on this Harmonia Mundi CD spans some 45 years, and includes sacred and secular works for chorus, as well as her orchestration of Benjamin Britten's cantata Rejoice in the Lamb. Her harmonic language clearly modulates over time, but remains tonal, even if it might be hard to hum the tonic in places.

Very little of Ms. Holst's considerable output has ever been recorded; all of the performances here are world premiere recordings. I have to admit that I hesitated a little in posting this on Expedition Audio. It took time to warm to some of the music- the Three Psalms of 1943 for example required a bit more familiarity. Other pieces were immediately and effortlessly enjoyable, in particular the settings of six poems by John Keats, Welcome Joy and Welcome Sorrow for female chorus and harp, and the wonderful Mass in A minor which opens the program.

There was no hesitation whatsoever in regard to the performances. The engineer for the recording is John Rutter and the sound quality from Harmonia Mundi is all that we have come to expect.