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Gustav Holst

September 21, 1874 - May 25, 1934
born in Cheltenham, England, composed during the Modern period
Known primarily for his popular orchestral composition, The Planets, Gustav Holst embraced a wide variety of musical models, from Arthur Sullivan, Edvard Grieg, and Wagner to the melodic simplicity of English folk music. In his maturity, he managed to merge these various influences into a rather sparse personal style that became increasingly transparent in his later years. Perhaps his greatest talent lay in the realm of choral music; his Hymn of Jesus stands as one of the finest works in the genre from the early twentieth century.

Holst's first instruction came from his father, Adolph, a piano teacher, who also made him take lessons on the violin and trombone; the father believed that these studies might alleviate the youth's asthma.

By age 12, the young Holst was composing, even dabbling in orchestration; in 1888, he won a prize in an amateur competition for his vocal work, A Christmas Carol. Thereafter he sang in the All Saints' Church choir and played violin and trombone in its orchestra. In 1892, he traveled to London and heard a Covent Garden performance of Götterdämmerung, led by Mahler. The experience opened up new compositional vistas for the young composer.

Holst entered the Royal College of Music the following year where he met fellow student Ralph Vaughan Williams, who would remain a close lifelong friend. Shortly after his arrival in London, Holst found that the neuritis in his right arm, which had afflicted him in his early youth, had worsened and now caused him to abandon ideas of a career as a concert pianist. In 1898, Holst left the RCM to take a position in the Carl Rosa Opera Company as rehearsal pianist and coach. He completed his Cotswold Symphony in 1900, and its premiere in April 1902 was a success. On June 22, 1901, Holst married Emily Isobel Harrison, whom he had met in a choir he had directed a few years before.

In late 1903, Holst took on a teaching position at James Allen's Girls' School, in South London. The following year he acquired a second post, the directorship of music at St. Paul's Girls' School, which he would retain until his death. He added another teaching post at Morley College in 1907, bogging him down and leaving little time for composition. Still, the St. Paul's Suite, written during this period (1912-1913), is among his most often-performed works.

In 1914, Holst began work on what would become his most popular composition, The Planets. The war years were extremely productive, as the composer not only completed The Planets, but also wrote Hymn of Jesus. In spring 1918, Holst began educational work for the YMCA at its various facilities on European battlefields.

He returned to London at the end of June 1919 and took a prestigious post teaching theory and composition at the RCM in 1920. The composer's fame was not only growing domestically in the early 1920s but internationally as well, as works like the Hymn of Jesus were receiving regular and acclaimed performances. By 1924, Holst's health was clearly declining, and he thus lessened his workload.

Beginning in late December 1928, Holst made a series of trips abroad that included visits to France, Italy, Sicily, and the U.S. In Boston, a duodenal ulcer was diagnosed in 1932. On May 23, 1934, he underwent surgery for the ulcer, but died two days later. ~ Robert Cummings, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Holst: Orchestral Works

x

Track List: Holst: Savitri; The Dream-City

Title: Sávitri, Chamber Opera, Op. 25, H. 96
Title: Songs (12) For Voice & Piano, Op. 48, H. 174
x

Track List: Holst: The Cloud Messenger; A Choral Fantasia; Part-Songs

Disc 1
Title: The Cloud Messenger, For Chorus & Orchestra, Op. 30, H. 111
Title: The Hymn Of Jesus, For 2 Choruses, Female Semi-chorus & Orchestra, Op. 37, H. 140
Title: Ave Maria, For Female Chorus, Op. 9b, H. 49
Title: Motets (2), For Chorus, Op. 43, H. 159-160
Disc 2
Title: Partsongs (7) For Soprano, Female Chorus & Strings, Op. 44, H. 162
Title: A Choral Fantasia, For Soprano, Chorus, Organ, Strings, Brass & Percussion, Op. 51, H. 177
Title: A Dirge For Two Veterans, For Male Chorus, Brass & Percussion, H. 121
Title: Ode To Death, For Chorus & Orchestra, Op. 38, H. 144
Title: This Have I Done For My True Love, For Chorus, Op. 34/1, H. 128
Title: O Lady, Leave That Silken Thread, Part-song For Unaccompanied Mixed Chorus, H. 4/1
Title: Short Partsongs, For Women's Chorus, H. 13
Title: The Autumn Is Old, For Unaccompanied Mixed Chorus, H. 1
Title: Winter And The Birds (I), For Women's Chorus, App. 1/40:1
x

Track List: Holst: Vedic Hymns; Four Songs For Voice And Violin; Humbert Wolfe Songs

Title: Songs (4) For Soprano (or Tenor) & Violin, Op. 35, H. 132
Title: Songs (6) For Soprano & Piano, Op. 16, H. 69
Title: Hymns From The Rig Veda, For Voice & Piano, Op. 24, H. 90
Title: Songs (12) For Voice & Piano, Op. 48, H. 174
Title: O Lady, Leave That Silken Thread, For Voice & Piano, H. 4/2
Title: The Heart Worships, Song For Voice & Piano, H. 95
x

Track List: Holst: Works For Chamber Orchestra

Title: Brook Green Suite, For Strings, H. 190
Title: Lyric Movement, For Viola & Chamber Orchestra, H. 191
Title: A Fugal Concerto, For Flute, Oboe & String Orchestra, Op. 40/2, H. 152
Title: Morris Dance Tunes, For Orchestra (or Military Band), Appx III, 12
Title: St. Paul's Suite, For Strings, Op. 29/2, H. 118
x

Track List: This I Have Done For My True Love

Title: Ave Maria, For Female Chorus, Op. 9b, H. 49
Title: Of One That Is So Fair, For SATB & Chorus, Op. 34/3, H. 130
Title: Carols (2) For Chorus, Oboe & Cello, H. 91
Title: Old English Carols (4), For Chorus & Piano, Op. 20b, H. 82
Title: Carols (2) For Chorus, Oboe & Cello, H. 91
Title: Lullay My Liking, For Soprano & Chorus, Op. 34/2, H. 129
Title: Bring Us In Good Ale, For Chorus, Op. 34/4, H. 131
Title: Diverus And Lazarus, For Chorus, H. 137
Title: This Have I Done For My True Love, For Chorus, Op. 34/1, H. 128
Title: Songs From The Princess, For Female Chorus, Op. 20a, H. 80
Title: Home They Brought Her Warrior Dead, For Female Chorus, H. 81
Title: Songs From The Princess, For Female Chorus, Op. 20a, H. 80
Title: O Spiritual Pilgrim, For Soprano & Chorus, H. 188
Title: Welsh Folksongs (12), For Chorus, H. 183
Title: Eastern Pictures (2), For Female Chorus & Harp, H. 112
Title: Light Leaves Whisper, For Mixed Chorus, H. 20
Title: In Youth Is Pleasure, For Chorus, H. 76
Title: Choral Folk Songs (6) For Chorus, Op.36b, H. 136

Comments

if you're into electronica ,check out Isao Tomita's recording of the Planets....o u t s t a n d i n g ! ! ! ! . . , I Traditionall y play it for the first snow of winter
What about Hammersmith? I'm telling you guys, that piece will devour your soul.
A monumental 20th century piece. I have only heard bits and pieces of his other orchestral works. However, his reputation will always be great for this one great piece. I enjoy it immensely.
I wonder if John Williams drew inspiration from Holst. They both sound very similar.
I really wish my high school band was playing a Holst piece this year. Instead we're playing "Ride" by Samuel R. Hazo.
my high school band is playing the second suite in f for concert season.
jeffshultz5
Would I be mistaken in thinking that a certain John Williams gained some inspiration for the music to a certain space opera from this?
lkgrebnel
Solti. . . !
Venus is one of my favorites from the planets suite and is one of the most beautiful piece of music literature that I've heard.
Y marching band is having a combo of Jupiter, Mars and Moonlight Sonata. So excited! Holst is my fav composer ever!
noahnando
Playing this peace in my orscra
Hearing the planets played by Tomita on an electronic keyboard is what led me to classical music in the 70's and is what I use to test or show off my speakers. The grandparent of all science fiction music.
Reviewer should have mentioned the suites for military band. Great stuff. The Planets is one of my favorites, especially Jupiter.
The planets, suites and women's orchestra is my favorite piece by Holst
wolf2704
Holst is amazing his second suite is beautiful
@mileshuggin s Mine, too!
Very True Miles
fave from my Concert Band days
ottsand
I love him
jessesmac
Jupiter, Mars, and Venus are my three favorites.
Ah jupiter and mars. my favourite. not that any of the other pieces deserve any less admiration.
Holst PRO!!
Herr Holst, meiner leiblingskom p o n i s t
what's wrong with vibrato in the right places, just not too much
ezramon17
He anthropomorp h i z e d the planets equally to the Greeks, which is not a bad thing if one thinks about it.
yessss i share a birthday with him. beautiful.
One of my all time favs...SUP band geeks :)
WHAT?! No suite in E-flat or F?! Those are part of the band canon. Sort of like having a bible without Genesis... Or peanut butter without jelly...
obolton6
Both Suites deserve mention. I wonder if their increasing popularity and application in high school bands across America will influence their popularity. That's how I learned of them. They're fairly ideal for a HS band.
Im so surprised that Second Suite in F isn't on here. My high-school band played it a few weeks ago and I was disappointed that it wasn't on here
krauser92
First Suite in E-Flat is by far my favorite of all his music. I wish it was on here.
jshurts
I agree as well. Suite in F was actually what I was looking for when I put his name in.
ext116
I agree.
It is unfortunate that both First Suite in E-Flat and Second Suite in F (both for military band) are missing. In my mind, at least, these two compositions put The Planets to shame.
Holst is a gem. I am not sure why I do not know more other than he is not well distributed amongst a
quiet
republic?
Question. Answer? None; hats off to a quiet man with a thoughtful look.
The best of us shuffle off without a trace.
.......love gustav's choral work......ma k e s girls sing without vibrato..... . . . . B I G plus in mixed chorus......
.......this bad boy likes the celesta..... . . a n d i'm ok with that.......i s it me?
......have played planets in orchestra... . . . . m y knowledge of holst is very thin, however..... . . . . d i d n ' t know he wrote choral music....... b u t very nice!! ....can hear just a weeee bit of planets..... . . . .

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