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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: 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: The Planets

Title: The Planets, Suite For Orchestra & Female Chorus, Op. 32, H. 125

1. The Planets, Suite For Orchestra & Female Chorus, Op. 32, H. 125: Mars, The Bringer Of War

2. The Planets, Suite For Orchestra & Female Chorus, Op. 32, H. 125: Venus, The Bringer Of Peace

3. The Planets, Suite For Orchestra & Female Chorus, Op. 32, H. 125: Mecury, The Winged Messenger

4. The Planets, Suite For Orchestra & Female Chorus, Op. 32, H. 125: Jupiter, The Bringer Of Jollity

5. The Planets, Suite For Orchestra & Female Chorus, Op. 32, H. 125: Saturn, The Bringer Of Old Age

6. The Planets, Suite For Orchestra & Female Chorus, Op. 32, H. 125: Uranus, The Magician

7. The Planets, Suite For Orchestra & Female Chorus, Op. 32, H. 125: Neptune, The Mystic

x

Track List: Holst: The Planets

1. The Planets, Suite For Orchestra & Female Chorus, Op. 32, H. 125: I. Mars, The Bringer Of War

2. The Planets, Suite For Orchestra & Female Chorus, Op. 32, H. 125: II. Venus, The Bringer Of Peace

3. The Planets, Suite For Orchestra & Female Chorus, Op. 32, H. 125: III. Mercury, The Winged Messenger

4. The Planets, Suite For Orchestra & Female Chorus, Op. 32, H. 125: IV. Jupiter, The Bringer Of Jolity

5. The Planets, Suite For Orchestra & Female Chorus, Op. 32, H. 125: V. Saturn, The Bringer Of Old Age

6. The Planets, Suite For Orchestra & Female Chorus, Op. 32, H. 125: VI. Uranus, The Magician

7. The Planets, Suite For Orchestra & Female Chorus, Op. 32, H. 125: VII. Neptune, The Mystic

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

1. Brook Green Suite, For Strings, H. 190: I. Prelude

2. Brook Green Suite, For Strings, H. 190: II. Air

3. Brook Green Suite, For Strings, H. 190: III. Dance

Title: Lyric Movement, For Viola & Chamber Orchestra, H. 191

4. Lyric Movement, For Viola & Chamber Orchestra, H. 191: Lyric Movement

Title: A Fugal Concerto, For Flute, Oboe & String Orchestra, Op. 40/2, H. 152

5. A Fugal Concerto, For Flute, Oboe & String Orchestra, Op. 40/2, H. 152: I. Moderato

6. A Fugal Concerto, For Flute, Oboe & String Orchestra, Op. 40/2, H. 152: II. Adagio

7. A Fugal Concerto, For Flute, Oboe & String Orchestra, Op. 40/2, H. 152: III. Allegro

Title: Morris Dance Tunes, For Orchestra (or Military Band), Appx III, 12

8. Morris Dance Tunes, For Orchestra (or Military Band), Appx III, 12: Bean Setting (Stick Dance)

9. Morris Dance Tunes, For Orchestra (or Military Band), Appx III, 12: Country Gardens (Handkerchief Dance)

10. Morris Dance Tunes, For Orchestra (or Military Band), Appx III, 12: Constant Billy (Stick Dance)

11. Morris Dance Tunes, For Orchestra (or Military Band), Appx III, 12: Shepherd's Hey (Stick Or Hand-clapping Dance)

12. Morris Dance Tunes, For Orchestra (or Military Band), Appx III, 12: Laudnum Bunches (Corner Dance)

13. Morris Dance Tunes, For Orchestra (or Military Band), Appx III, 12: Rigs O'marlow (Stick Dance)

14. Morris Dance Tunes, For Orchestra (or Military Band), Appx III, 12: How D'ye Do (Corner Dance)

Title: St. Paul's Suite, For Strings, Op. 29/2, H. 118

15. St. Paul's Suite, For Strings, Op. 29/2, H. 118: I. Jig

16. St. Paul's Suite, For Strings, Op. 29/2, H. 118: II. Ostinato

17. St. Paul's Suite, For Strings, Op. 29/2, H. 118: III. Intermezzo

18. St. Paul's Suite, For Strings, Op. 29/2, H. 118: IV. Finale (The Dargason)

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

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The Jupiter section of The Planets is one of those rare pieces that exudes the best in the human spirit. Jovial, confident, playful, full of love and hope, it is the exact antithesis of the Mars segment as noted below..The brief part starting at 3:55 can bring tears to the eyes.....
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Sorry, Pandora, this music (Mars, War). is too remindful of the World War III perils we are now facing; Gus painted a much too graphic musical scenario of what it might be like... I don't like it for that reason... +
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ttran1201
Jeez I love this piece!
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On Pandora I have a channel which mixes Holtz and Mussorgsky in with the best progressive rock like Yes and Oldfield. They fit together remarkably well.
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What an excellent music maker.
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Gustav Holst greatest
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ashley43973
This song is a major part of the game Villagers & Heroes! love it!
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@masterlegob u i l d e r 1 4 6 You should look up Ottorino Respighi. His Roman Trilogy (The Pines of Rome, The Fountains of Rome and Roman Festivals) is probably the closest thing to Holst's Planets in classical music.
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דודו פישר
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I played Mars by Holst at WIBC this past weekend. And all I can say is it's nothing short of amazing!
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I love all the French Horn moments. This is an amazing piece!!
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@Dyrice21 Same, this is just so spectacular
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Ha. We are playing the planets in marching band. Its amazing!
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jaiden_downi n g
I like this song it is the planets for 2 pianos and I keep losing what I am listing to.
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kjetilga
The creator of The Planets...
Such a beautiful piece of art.
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Morris Dance Tunes: Seriously..m y last name before I was ever married was Morris. Don't get me wrong. I'm not married right now, but I did keep the name.
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carrie.hughe s 0 7
Love love love this composer. His works for symphonies are some of my favorites.
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I like Holst very much but it is surprising that all I have heard on Burt Bacharach radio is British light music. Where is Burt Bacharach? Why is Pandora radio so mixed up? This happens often on most of the stations. Maybe I should cancel my subscription .
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ladyplt2003
This is heaven incarnate for a French horn player!
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Pictures at an Exhibition
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Does anyone know music that is similar to the planets. They are just so amazing i cant find anything classical that is similar to them.
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TSLOH VATSUG
GUSTAV HOLST
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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
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What about Hammersmith? I'm telling you guys, that piece will devour your soul.
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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.
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I wonder if John Williams drew inspiration from Holst. They both sound very similar.
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I really wish my high school band was playing a Holst piece this year. Instead we're playing "Ride" by Samuel R. Hazo.
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my high school band is playing the second suite in f for concert season.
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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?
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lkgrebnel
Solti. . . !
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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.
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Y marching band is having a combo of Jupiter, Mars and Moonlight Sonata. So excited! Holst is my fav composer ever!
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Playing this peace in my orscra
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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.
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Reviewer should have mentioned the suites for military band. Great stuff. The Planets is one of my favorites, especially Jupiter.
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The planets, suites and women's orchestra is my favorite piece by Holst
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wolf2704
Holst is amazing his second suite is beautiful
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@mileshuggin s Mine, too!
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Very True Miles
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fave from my Concert Band days
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ottsand
I love him
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jessesmac
Jupiter, Mars, and Venus are my three favorites.
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Ah jupiter and mars. my favourite. not that any of the other pieces deserve any less admiration.
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Holst PRO!!
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Herr Holst, meiner leiblingskom p o n i s t
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what's wrong with vibrato in the right places, just not too much
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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.
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yessss i share a birthday with him. beautiful.
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One of my all time favs...SUP band geeks :)
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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...
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