The Strad Issue: January 2007
Musicians: Janice Graham (violin) Sarah Ewins (violin) Andriy Viytovych (viola) Anna Pyne (flute) Philip Harmer (oboe) English Sinfonia, Howard Griffiths (conductor)
Composer: Holst

Holst was a great believer in giving children contemporary and challenging music to play and it is testimony to the high standards he achieved that both the St Paul’s and Brook Green Suites for strings should have been composed specifically for the girls of St Paul’s School, Brook Green, Hammersmith where he taught. The latter work, with its sublime pastoral opening movement and jig finale, is played with engagingly infectious spirit and expertise by the English Sinfonia in the warm, generous acoustics of St Clement’s Church, Islington, London.

The same year (1933) Holst also completed his Lyric Suite for viola and orchestra (composed for Lionel Tertis), a more restrained work which Andriy Viytovych plays with noble intensity, glorious tone and glowing intonational purity. No less alluring is the Fugal Concerto, a neo-Classical delight that flautist Anna Pyne and oboist Philip Harmer shape with intoxicating rapture.

Since winning the Gold Medal at the Shell/LSO competition in 1990, Janice Graham has had a distinguished career as both a solo and orchestral violinist (she is currently leader of the English National Opera Orchestra). Her exemplary 1994 EMI recording of Delius’s first and second violin sonatas gave an early indication of her special affinity with English music and here she proves no less exceptional. She plays A Song of the Night as though it was a lost treasure by Max Bruch (to whom this early work owes a great deal) and forms an ideal partnership with Hallé Orchestra associate leader Sarah Ewins in the intricate melodic tracings of the Concerto for two violins. An outstanding release.