Holst, Gustav (1874-1934)

Gustav Holst

born: 21 September 1874
died: 25 May 1934
country: United Kingdom

Gustav Holst, until nearly the end of the First World War known as ‘von Holst’, came from a refugee Latvian-Russian musical family that had arrived in England in the early nineteenth century and settled in Cheltenham. His great-grandfather had actually served at the Imperial Russian court. However, that had been over half a century before Holst’s birth, and in the 1880s and early 1890s the young Gustav was infused with the spirit of the Gloucestershire countryside, and as a teenager was organist or choirmaster at local churches, notably at Wyck Rissington and Bourton, and wrote music for local performance, particularly a well-received operetta, Landsdown Castle. We can imagine all too well the impact on an impressionable imagination of walking the stretch of hills between Wyck Rissington and Bourton-on-the-Water in all seasons, before the arrival of the petrol engine. One member of the Bourton Choral Society remembered a rehearsal of the choir in 1892 taken by Holst, who arrived carrying ‘an old-fashioned stable lantern which he had borrowed at Wyck Rissington to light him on the road to Bourton … and would catch the last train to Cheltenham’.

Holst’s father taught him the piano, violin and trombone, and the young musician went on to study with Stanford at the Royal College of Music from 1893 to 1898. But even when young he began to be troubled by neuritis in his right arm, which curtailed his keyboard skills. He was not well-off, unlike so many of his musical contemporaries, and he first earned his living as a professional trombone player, touring with the Carl Rosa Opera Company and later joining the Scottish Orchestra. This was of enormous value to him as a composer, as he gained a practical understanding of the orchestra from the inside, experience which characterized his flair and brilliance for orchestral writing throughout his life.

Becoming a school music teacher, he was appointed to the newly established St Paul’s Girls’ School in Hammersmith, going there in 1905, at first to teach singing, and remaining until 1934. So good were his relations with the school, and Frances Ralph Gray, the pioneering first High Mistress, that they soon built him a special sound-proofed room in which to compose. And it was at the school that he was surrounded by a team of able and willing young female admirers whose practical help in getting his music down on paper and copied, played a huge role in the evolution of The Planets in particular.

What is particularly notable, despite producing a large catalogue of music, is that Holst was in his forties before he achieved recognition—or even extensive performance—as a composer. Established after the First World War, particularly with The Planets, which became one of the most successful British orchestral works of all time, Holst’s mature career was cut short by his early death at the age of fifty-nine.

from notes by Lewis Foreman

Albums

Holst: Choral Ballets
CDA66784Archive Service
Holst: Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda; Britten: Choral dances from Gloriana; Bliss: Pastoral 'Lie strewn the white flocks'
CDH55050Helios (Hyperion's budget label) Composers of World War I
Holst: Choral Symphony & Choral Fantasia
CDH55104Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Last few CD copies remaining
Holst: Savitri & The Dream-City
CDH55042Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
Holst: The Evening Watch & other choral works
CDH55170Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
Holst: The Planets
Studio Master: LSO0029Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Holst: The Planets; Matthews: Pluto
CDH55350Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
Holst: This have I done for my true love & other choral works
CDH55171Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
A Choral Christmas
Studio Master: SIGCD257Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Allegri: Miserere
Studio Master: SIGCD085Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Bliss: Pastoral 'Lie strewn the white flocks'; Britten: Choral dances from Gloriana; Holst: Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda
CDH55050Helios (Hyperion's budget label) Composers of World War I
Christmas at St John's Cambridge
CDA67576
Epiphany at St Paul's
CDH55443Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
Matthews: Pluto; Holst: The Planets
CDH55350Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
Panis angelicus
CDA66669
Parry: Songs of Farewell
Studio Master: SIGCD267Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
The English Anthem, Vol. 3
CDA66618Archive Service
The English Hymn, Vol. 1 – Christ Triumphant
CDP12101
The Music of Westminster Cathedral
This album is not yet available for downloadWCC100Super-budget price sampler
The Power of Love
CDA67888Composers of World War I
Music for Brass and Percussion
CDA66189Deleted
Hyperion monthly sampler – August 2014
FREE DOWNLOADHYP201408Download-only monthly sampler

Complete works available for download

A Choral Fantasia, H177 Op 51Guildford Choral Society, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Hilary Davan Wetton (conductor)
A Moorside SuiteLondon Brass Virtuosi, David Honeyball (conductor)
Ave Maria, H49Westminster Cathedral Choir, James O'Donnell (conductor)
Ave Maria, H49Holst Singers, Stephen Layton (conductor)
Bring us in good ale, H131Holst Singers, Stephen Layton (conductor)
Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda. Group 3, H99 Op 26 No 3Holst Singers, Thelma Owen (harp), Hilary Davan Wetton (conductor)
Choral Symphony No 1, H155 Op 41Guildford Choral Society, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Hilary Davan Wetton (conductor)
Diverus and Lazarus, H137Holst Singers, Stephen Layton (conductor)
In youth is pleasure, H76Holst Singers, Stephen Layton (conductor)
King Estmere, H70Guildford Choral Society, Philharmonia Orchestra, Hilary Davan Wetton (conductor)
Light leaves whisper, H20Holst Singers, Stephen Layton (conductor)
Lullay my liking, H129Holst Singers, Stephen Layton (conductor)
Lullay my liking, H129The Rodolfus Choir, Ralph Allwood (conductor)
Lyric Movement, H191The Hallé Orchestra, Timothy Pooley (viola), Mark Elder (conductor)
Nunc dimittis, H127St Paul's Cathedral Choir, John Scott (conductor)
Nunc dimittis, H127Holst Singers, Hilary Davan Wetton (conductor)
Nunc dimittis, H127Westminster Cathedral Choir, James O'Donnell (conductor)
O spiritual pilgrim, H188Holst Singers, Stephen Layton (conductor)
Of one that is so fair and bright, H130Holst Singers, Stephen Layton (conductor)
Savitri, H96 Op 25City of London Sinfonia, Richard Hickox (conductor)
Seven Partsongs, H162 Op 44Holst Singers, Holst Orchestra, Hilary Davan Wetton (conductor)
Six Choral Folksongs, H136Holst Singers, Stephen Layton (conductor)
Six Choruses, H186 Op 52Holst Singers, Holst Orchestra, Hilary Davan Wetton (conductor)
Songs from The Princess, Op 20aHolst Singers, Stephen Layton (conductor)
ThaxtedWells Cathedral Choir, Malcolm Archer (conductor), Rupert Gough (organ)
The Dream-CityPatrizia Kwella (soprano), City of London Sinfonia, Richard Hickox (conductor)
The Evening Watch, H159 Op 43 No 1Holst Singers, Hilary Davan Wetton (conductor)
The Evening Watch, H159 Op 43 No 1Clare Wilkinson (mezzo-soprano), Matthew Long (tenor), Tenebrae, Nigel Short (conductor)
The Golden Goose, H163Guildford Choral Society, Philharmonia Orchestra, Hilary Davan Wetton (conductor)
The Morning of the Year, H164Guildford Choral Society, Philharmonia Orchestra, Hilary Davan Wetton (conductor)
The Planets, H125 Op 32London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Colin Davis (conductor)
This have I done for my true love, H128St John's College Choir Cambridge, David Hill (conductor)
This have I done for my true love, H128Holst Singers, Stephen Layton (conductor)
Two Carols, H91Holst Singers, Stephen Layton (conductor)
Two Eastern Pictures, H112Holst Singers, Stephen Layton (conductor)
Two Psalms, H117Holst Singers, Hilary Davan Wetton (conductor), Holst Orchestra

Alphabetical listing of all musical works

A Choral Fantasia, H177 Op 51 (Holst)
A Little Music  
A Love Song  
A Moorside Suite (Holst)
A mummers' play  
A Welcome Song  
Alone to sacrifice Thou goest Lord  
Angel spirits of sleep  
Assemble, all ye maidens  
Ave Maria, H49 (Holst)
Bacchus, young Bacchus! good or ill betide  
Before Sleep  
Beneath my palm tree, by the river side  
Betelgeuse  
Betelgeuse  
Bring us in good ale, H131 (Holst)
But when Thou joinest with the Nine  
Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda. Group 3, H99 Op 26 No 3 (Holst)
Choral Symphony No 1, H155 Op 41 (Holst)
Dance of the headman and hobby-horse  
Dance of the maidens  
Dance of the three girls  
Dance of the youngest couple  
Dance of the youths  
Diverus and Lazarus, H137 (Holst)
Down then came that maiden fair  
Down with the rascal  
Drinking Song  
Envoi  
Ever let the fancy roam  
Execution  
Flowing from the firmament  
Four Old English Carols, H82 (Holst)
Go thou on before us  
God of the golden bow  
Good Friday  
Hear our hymn, O Goddess  
Hearken to me gentlemen  
Here's the old man  
Home they brought her warrior dead  
How mighty are the Sabbaths  
Hymn of the Travellers  
Hymn to the Dawn  
Hymn to the Waters  
Hymn to Vena 'The sun rising through the mist'  
I love my love  
I sow'd the seeds of love  
I vow to thee, my country  
In youth is pleasure, H76 (Holst)
Intercession  
Jesu, Thou the Virgin-born  
Journey's End  
Journey's End  
Jupiter – The bringer of jollity  
King Estmere, H70 (Holst)
Light leaves whisper, H20 (Holst)
Lord, Who hast made us for Thine own  
Love on my heart  
Love, sweet love  
Lullay my liking, H129 (Holst)
Lyric Movement, H191 (Holst)
Mae 'nghariad i'n Fenws  
Man born of desire  
Mars – The bringer of war  
Matthew, Mark and Luke and John  
Mercury – The winged messenger  
My mother was a western woman  
Neptune – The mystic  
Next thy Tasso's ardent numbers  
Noblest, I pray Thee  
Now Christ thee save  
Now in these fairylands  
Now sleeps the crimson petal  
Nunc dimittis, H127 (Holst)
O dance of love  
O lady, this is thy own true love  
O Love, I complain  
O spiritual pilgrim, H188 (Holst)
O swallow, swallow  
O Thou, whose mighty palace roof doth hang  
Ode on a Grecian Urn: Chorus  
Of one that is so fair and bright, H130 (Holst)
On Betelgeuse the gold leaves hang in golden aisles  
Onward the tiger and the leopard pants  
Or forced them all to flee  
Persephone  
Prelude. Invocation to Pan: Chorus  
Psalm 148  
Psalm 86  
Reade me, reade me dear brother  
Rejoice, ye dead, where'er your spirits dwell  
Rhyme  
Saturn – The bringer of old age  
Savitri, H96 Op 25 (Holst)
Say who is this?  
Set free Thy people, set free Thy servants  
Seven Partsongs, H162 Op 44 (Holst)
She sent one after King Estmere  
Six Choral Folksongs, H136 (Holst)
Six Choruses, H186 Op 52 (Holst)
Sleep  
Song and Bacchanal  
Songs from The Princess, Op 20a (Holst)
Sorrow and joy  
Sound drum and trumpet play  
Spirit here that reignest!  
Spring  
Spring is here  
Summer  
Swansea Town  
Sweet and low  
Tears, idle tears  
Terly, terlow  
Thaxted (Holst)
The Dream-City  
The Dream-City (Holst/Matthews)
The Evening Watch, H159 Op 43 No 1 (Holst)
The Floral Bandit  
The Golden Goose, H163 (Holst)
The Goose Dance  
The Human Organ  
The Mating Dance  
The Morning of the Year, H164 (Holst)
The Mummer's Play  
The Planets, H125 Op 32 (Holst)
The Planets, H125 Op 32 (Holst/Matthews)
The Song of the Blacksmith  
The splendour falls  
The toil of day is ebbing, the quiet comes again  
The voice of nature  
The voices call  
Then bespake her father dear  
Then King Estmere he took his harp  
Then, through thy Temple wide, melodious swells  
There was a tree  
They had not ridden scarce a mile  
Things lovelier  
This have I done for my true love, H128 (Holst)
Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness  
Three Hymns for Chorus and Orchestra (Holst)
'Tis awful silence then again  
To my humble supplication  
To you, consummate drinkers, though little be your drought  
Tomorrow shall be my dancing day  
Turn back, O man  
Twelve Songs, H174 (Holst)
Twelve Welsh Folk Songs, H183 (Holst)
Two Carols, H91 (Holst)
Two Eastern Pictures, H112 (Holst)
Two Psalms, H117 (Holst)
Uranus – The magician  
Vainly awaiting, some beguiling  
Vena comes, born of light  
Venus – The bringer of peace  
What will they give me, when journey’s done?  
When first we met  
When wedding fiddles are a-playing  
Whence came ye, jolly Satyrs, whence came ye?  
Whence came ye, merry Damsels, whence came ye?  
Within his car, aloft, young Bacchus stood  
You have shown my mystery