by Gustav Holst
Gustav Holst was born into a very musical family. His father was a pianist, and his mother (who died when he was 8) was a singer. As a child, he was taught the piano, organ and trombone. He studied composition at the Royal College of Music in London (where he was a teacher later in his life). There, he met another composer- Ralph Vaughan Williams. They soon became wonderful friends. Holst and Vaughan Williams were known to spend many hours having deep conversations about music and life- but their music composition styles were very different. After he finished college, Holst played his trombone professionally. He soon found that it was difficult to earn a living as a trombonist and composer, so in 1904 he took a job as the Director of Music at the St. Paul’s Girl’s School in Hammersmith, a job that he held until he died! It was during his time as a teacher that he composed his most famous work, The Planets. Because he was so busy teaching his students, it took him over two years to complete the piece! Although he is known to this day for The Planets, Holst never felt that it was the best example of his compositions. Throughout his life, Holst continued to compose orchestral music, wind ensemble music, operas, chamber music, and vocal music of many different styles, and had a great interest in various kinds of literature, poetry and astrology. Born in Cheltenham, England, September 14th, 1874; Died in England, May 25th, 1934
Year of Publication: 1922
Type of composition: Suite
Style: I. March, II. slow, III. Moderate, IV. Fast
Programming suggestions: It was 1911 when Holst decided to write another military band suite based on English folk songs. In fact, in this piece, he uses seven Hampshire songs, ranging from ‘Greensleeves’ to ‘I Love My Love.’ He starts the suite off with a march, where the baritone melody is the folk song, ‘Swansea Town.’ In the second movement, the main song is ‘I Love My Love.’ The third movement actually gives us a glimpse of a later Holst, with the use of open fourths and fifths as a sparse accompaniment to ‘The Song of the Blacksmith. But it is in the last movement where Holst shows how easy it had become for him to combine melodies seemlessly. He uses a catchy six eight tune that is woven throughout all the instruments, including a duet between the piccolo and tuba, and combines it with the familiar ‘Greensleeves.’ It is this wistful ending that is just right for the suite. In fact, he liked it so much that he used the finale as the conclusion to his St. Paul’s Suite for strings.
Solo instruments: euphonium, alto saxophone, trumpet, piccolo, horn
Anecdotal notes: Pretty straight forward piece. Euphonium may have to be rewritten if no euphonium is present or cannot play the part. Alto clarinet, Bass sax, contra-bass clarinet, and Eb clarinet are doubled if other areas of the ensemble. Some syncopated rhythms, but not real confusing. Several repeat passage may cause problems following. Dynamics and use of several melodies at one time will need a ensemble with gerat control.
Discography: Popular Music : Holst: Suite No.1 & 2/Handel: Music for the Royal Fireworks/Bach: Fantasia in G. Cleveland Symphonic Winds. Fennell, conductor. Telarc records.
Recording of "March"
Recording of "Song Without Words"
Recording of "Song of the Blacksmith"
Recording of "Fantasia On The Dargason"