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Penguin Guide, January 2009

An outstandingly imaginative collection of Holst’s shorter works, four of them in concertante style, with excellent soloists from the orchestra. New to the catalogue is the beautiful Song of the Night for violin and orchestra, written in 1905 but not published until 50 years after the composer’s death. Framed by a solo cadenza, it is a rhapsodical piece, rising to a dramatic climax, which ebbs away into a celestial silence. It is beautifully played here, but then the solo contributions to the other works are hardly less memorable, and Howard Griffiths displays his Holstian credentials with vigorously expressive accounts of the better-known Brook Green and St Paul’s Suites extremely well played by the English Sinfonia. The recording has splendid body and atmosphere, and this is a disc not to be missed at Naxos price.

Daniel Edwards
Stringendo, September 2008

Here is an opportunity to sample some of Holst’s lesser heard work. His two final pieces are included; the ‘Brook Green Suite’ which is in much the same vein as the ‘St Paul’s Suite’ (lush string writing using folk elements). Holst’s final work, the ‘Lyric Movement for Viola and Chamber Orchestra’ is totally different; beautifully husky and austere. Soloist Andriy Viytovych captures these qualities with ease. The violin is also prominent, first in ‘A Song of the Night for Violin and Orchestra’—cast in arch form with a cleverly drawn-out climax and magic modulations to make you wonder why this was published 50 years after Holst’s death! Janice Graham and Sarah Edwins finish the disc as soloists in the Concerto for Two Violins and Orchestra. Their obvious placement on either side of the microphone/s makes the counterpoint between them evenly distinct—perfect for headphone listening. …Ending with the popular ‘St Paul’s Suite’, this recording is as electrifying as they come due to the English sinfonia’s precision and balance.

Christopher Latham
Limelight, October 2007

Holst’s mastery of the English Pastoral idiom form sits slightly at odds with his international reputation as composer of the monumental astrological orchestral work The Planets. Essentially a composer of gracious melodies and sweet harmonies, he left behind a decent-sized catalogue of works, some of them educational works for the students of the St Paul School at which he taught, and which are recorded here with excellent performances. These are here with lesser known concertos, of which I was most taken by his Song of the Night for violin and orchestra which Janice Graham plays gorgeously (think a nocturnal version of Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending). Overall one is left with the impression of an inventive composer, who camouflaged his great skill beneath warmth and charm.

Philip Clark
Classic FM, June 2007

From the composer who brought you the astonishing The Planets, some of this material sounds rum-ti-tum and earth bound. The Brook Green Suite and St Paul’s Suite have their moments — the last movement of St Paul’s runs the folk tune 'The Dargason’ alongside ‘Greensleeves’. The Lyric Movement (1933) for viola and orchestra, however, probes other orbits. Here Hoist’s idiosyncratic juxtapositions of material and vaporous tone colours sound positively Ivesian. The English Sinfonia and Howard Griffiths dispatch with vigour and empathy.

Gramophone, June 2007

Gramophone, June 2007

Also on Naxos, Howard Griffiths conducts the English Sinfonia in a Holst programme which partners four comparatively off-the-beaten-track items (A Song of the Night Lyric Movement, A Fugal Concerto and Concerto for Two Violins) with the more familiar St. Paul's and Brook Green suites. The performances are undeniably spick and span but never quite ignite (they're nowhere near as involving as, say Imogen Holst's with the ECO on Lyrita), and the reverberant sound soon tires the ear.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2007

By nature Gustav Holst would probably have best enjoyed his life to continue as a schoolteacher at the St. Paul's Girls School in the London suburb of Hammersmith. But that ordered existence, much of its spent in the countryside, was to change when at the age of forty-four the large orchestral score, The Planets, gave him overnight fame on both sides of the Atlantic. Really more at home as a miniaturist, that work was to prove his only lasting major success, though the St. Paul's Suite and Brook Green - composed for his St. Paul's students - retain a place in the repertoire of chamber orchestras. The schoolchildren must have been of a very high standard as neither are easy, and are here given unusually vigorous readings by Howard Griffiths. My own particular favourite is the Concerto for Two Violins, a score of around fifteen minutes and difficult to programme as a concerto. Sadly neither this nor the early Lyric Movement are often heard, the latter among the most gorgeous pieces ever written for viola, and played here with warmth and virtuosity by Andriy Viytovych. The Fugal Concerto came shortly after The Planets and proves far more attractive than its title suggests, the woodwind soloists playful in character. Founded in 1961, the highly regarded English Sinfonia is one of many UK chamber orchestra that operate on a part-time basis, the Sinfonia drawing its players from major London symphony orchestras. The excellent soloists come from its ranks, Janice Graham placed a mite too close to the microphone in A Song for the Night, the bright church acoustic adding to the weight of the orchestra. Highly recommended.

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