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Three Hymns for Chorus and Orchestra

author of text

Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was of Swedish ancestry, the son of Theodor von Holst who taught the harp and the piano from his home in Cheltenham. Gustav began composing at an early age—although his father did not encourage this—and, after studying with Stanford at the Royal College of Music, he became a trombonist, touring with the Carl Rosa Opera Company. In 1905 he became music master at St Paul’s Girls’ School, Hammersmith, and in 1907 music director at Morley College. He held both these posts until his death. He was also a visiting lecturer in composition at Harvard University and was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society gold medal in 1930 and the Howland Memorial Prize from Yale University.

Holst’s contact with church music was not extensive and he was certainly not a church composer. His other interests included learning Sanskrit to know more of Hindu literature and philosophy and reading about the space-time continuum.

Written in 1916, Turn back O man is the second of Three Hymns for Chorus and Orchestra. The melody (The Old 124th Psalm) is taken from the Genevan Psalter. The ostinato in the bass is a simple but effective device which makes it unusual in the anthem repertoire.

from notes by William McVicker 1992


The English Anthem, Vol. 3
CDA66618Archive Service


No 2: Turn back, O man
Track 10 on CDA66618 [4'54] Archive Service

Track-specific metadata for CDA66618 track 10

Turn back, O man
Recording date
2 July 1991
Recording venue
St Paul's Cathedral, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Arthur Johnson
Recording engineer
Antony Howell
Hyperion usage
  1. The English Anthem, Vol. 3 (CDA66618)
    Disc 1 Track 10
    Release date: February 1993
    Deletion date: June 2008
    Archive Service
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