Holst ~ Composer ABCs

Gustav Holst was born Sept. 21, 1874, and died May 25, 1934, at the age of 59. He was born into a family of musicians, going back three generations. His grandfather had been a Latvian composer of harp music who moved to England. Holst was a natural at music, learning the piano and violin at a young age. Unfortunately, he had a nerve issue in his right hand and was unable to continue playing piano. He switched to trombone and spent many years playing to supplement his composing income.

After his education at a boys school, he attended the Royal College of Music. He learned composition and met Ralph Vaughn Williams, another composer who became a lifelong friend. Largely influenced by the music of Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss, Holst’s compositions grew and changed. While in London a bit later, he became interested in ancient texts, the Hindu philosophy, and learned Sanskrit so he could translate his own pieces. This influenced much of his writing and many of his pieces.

Holst was also influenced by the writings of George Bernard Shaw and William Morris, both outspoken socialists. Other writers were also influential for Holst, including Walt Whitman, Thomas Hardy, and Robert Bridges. The world that Holst was living and working in was changing and growing quickly, moving from the Romantic era of art and music into the 20th century.

Holst married a soprano from one of the choirs his directed and they seem to have had a pleasant life. They had one daughter, Isobel, that is noted in most biographies.

Holst is most well known for an orchestral piece, The Planets. This is a seven movement pieces, each movement named for one of the planets known at the time. Most popular of these are “Jupiter – Bringer of Jollity” and “Mars – Bringer of War.” This piece came about after a period where Holst traveled to Spain with Arthur Bax, his brother Clifford Bax, and Balfour Gardiner. Clifford Bax introduced him to astrology and he became fascinated with it. This fascination with the stars and skies led to what became the orchestral suite The Planets. The piece was almost immediately popular and this seems to have been an area of irritation to Holst since he was not completely pleased with this piece. This piece did, however, secure his financial situation.

Holst spent the second half of his life teaching, particular at St. Paul’s Girls School. He began teaching there in 1904 and taught there until the end of his life. He wrote the St. Paul’s Suite for the opening of the music wing at the girls school. He also taught at Morley College. The students of Morley College helped transcribe the 500 page score a newly found piece by 17th century composer Henry Purcell. The students wrote out the score, orchestra parts, and vocal parts for The Fairy Queen and then they performed it. It was a stunning success.

From his Indian influences, many works emerged. One of the best known is the grand opera Sita. He also wrote songs with vedic settings. Another piece included in this influence set would be Sivitri, which is a chamber opera.

Not mentioned in many biographies about Holst is his wind band music. He was actually a fairly driving force in the early stages of wind bands of the early 20th centure. His military band music is still important in the band world today. He wrote First Suite in E-flat for Military Band in 1909 and Second Suite in F Major for Military Band in 1911. Neither of these pieces appear to have been premiered until the early 1920s.

Holst experimented with music of all sorts and writing styles of all sorts. He wrote psalms in plainsong, experimented with minimalism, echoed the style of Gilbert and Sullivan, wrote opera like the 16th century composers, set traditional texts to music, used folk songs and elements of them in pieces, and studied, translated, and utilized ancient texts. If you are looking for a composer with a huge range and variety of pieces to experience, Holst is one to study.

Reference materials for Holst:
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/6380559/gustav-holst
https://www.classicsforkids.com/composers/composer_profile.php?id=37
https://www.classicfm.com/composers/holst/guides/holst-facts/
https://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Holst-Gustav.htm
https://www.wisemusicclassical.com/composer/712/Gustav-Holst/
http://www.gustavholst.info/biography/index.php?chapter=1
https://www.britannica.com/biography/Gustav-Theodore-Holst
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustav_Holst

Note: I know lots of folks do not like Wikipedia. For composers, however, it is a great source list of pieces. You will often find pieces and links to them mentioned in Wikipedia that exist but other biographies do not deem worth mentioning. An example of this is the military suites by Holst. They are a staple of the band world today yet are seldom mentioned in standard biographies.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera

Thank you for joining me this week for Composer ABCs. Please visit the hosts to find the linky and other participants.

Desiree @ Our Homeschool Notebook  (Harry Potter this week!) and
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses (Homeschool Bloggers this week).

Featured from Week 4 all things ‘G’

Tagged: ,

11 thoughts on “Holst ~ Composer ABCs

  1. Ellen June 1, 2021 at 3:19 pm Reply

    It’s amazing to me that Holst didn’t like his Planet piece, but so many other people did. The evidence is there since it was such a big hit and secured him financially. It seems like we are all so hard on ourselves. It’s a shame. Just think of all the opportunities there would be to make people happy and help people to enjoy music more, if we would just be comfortable with our own abilities, talents, and styles, and not compare ourselves to others.

    • 3gigglygirlsathome June 1, 2021 at 6:21 pm Reply

      Ellen, that is so true! Comparison and negative self-talk are detrimental to so much.

  2. Desiree W. June 4, 2021 at 9:48 am Reply

    I will have to play The Planets for my astronomy-loving boy. That is interesting that he didn’t feel like it was good work. I feel that so often, and then I look back and think “why wasn’t I more proud of that?” Yes, we are always so hard on ourselves.

    • 3gigglygirlsathome June 4, 2021 at 3:47 pm Reply

      One of my goals is to trust the opinions of those around me about my work. We should be proud of what we complete and yet we are often tough on ourselves.

  3. Ives ~ Composer ABCs | At Home June 7, 2021 at 8:48 am Reply

    […] Composer ABCs in this series:A – Leroy AndersonB – Bernstein, Bizet, BaxC – CoplandD – Debussy and de MeijE – ElgarF – FauréG – Grainger and GinasteraH – Holst […]

  4. […] – CoplandD – Debussy and de MeijE – ElgarF – FauréG – Grainger and GinasteraH – HolstI – […]

  5. Kern – Composer ABCs | At Home June 21, 2021 at 12:50 pm Reply

    […] and de MeijE – ElgarF – FauréG – Grainger and GinasteraH – HolstI […]

  6. Liszt ~ composer ABCs | At Home June 30, 2021 at 11:14 am Reply

    […] – CoplandD – Debussy and de MeijE – ElgarF – FauréG – Grainger and GinasteraH – HolstI – IvesJ – Joplin and JanacekK – […]

  7. […] – CoplandD – Debussy and de MeijE – ElgarF – FauréG – Grainger and GinasteraH – HolstI – IvesJ – Joplin and JanacekK – KernL – […]

  8. Nelson ~ Composer ABCs | At Home July 19, 2021 at 10:07 pm Reply

    […] – CoplandD – Debussy and de MeijE – ElgarF – FauréG – Grainger and GinasteraH – HolstI – IvesJ – Joplin and JanacekK – KernL – LisztM – […]

  9. Offenbach ~ Composer ABCs | At Home July 27, 2021 at 11:40 am Reply

    […] – CoplandD – Debussy and de MeijE – ElgarF – FauréG – Grainger and GinasteraH – HolstI – IvesJ – Joplin and JanacekK – KernL – LisztM – MussorgskyN – […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: