Prior to this disc, Howard Griffiths was best known as a conductor of the lesser-known late-Classical/early-Romantic Austro-Germanic symphonists: Ignace Pleyel, Franz Krommer, Paul Wranitzky, and their ilk. On this 2005 Naxos disc he turns in spirited and soulful performances with the English Sinfonia of the music of English modernist Gustav Holst. By programming the well-known St. Paul and Brook Green Suites along with the less-well-known A Song of the Night for violin and orchestra and A Fugal Concerto for flute, oboe, and strings, Griffiths grants the listener familiar only with the composer's extremely well-known Planets Suite a much broader picture of Holst's achievement. The soloists are all consistently marvelous, although violist Andriy Viytovych is particularly impressive in his ardent performance of the late Lyric Movement for viola and chamber orchestra. The English Sinfonia's ensemble performances are powerfully cohesive, amazingly agile, strongly rhythmic, and, when it's called for, wonderfully atmospheric. But best of all, after years spent in the Austro-Germanic wilderness, Griffiths seems wholly sympathetic to Holst's richly intellectual, exquisitely colorful, austerely lyrical, and deeply if reservedly emotional music and his Holst performances are in the same league as Hickox, Hogwood, and perhaps even Boult. Recorded in lush sound at St. Clements Church, Islington, London, by producer Jakob Händel, these performances will gratify anyone who enjoys English modernist music in general and Holst in particular.
AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Brook Green Suite, for strings, H. 190|
|St. Paul's Suite, for strings, Op. 29/2, H. 118|
|A Fugal Concerto, for flute, oboe & string orchestra, Op. 40/2, H. 152|
|Double Concerto, for 2 violins & orchestra, Op. 49, H. 175|