Gustav Holst


Born: 1874   Died: 1934   Country: England   Period: 20th Century
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 Read more 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. Read less
Holst: The Planets, St. Paul's Suite / Handley, RPO
Release Date: 10/14/2008   Label: Royal Philharmonic Masterworks  
Catalog: 28070   Number of Discs: 1
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Holst: The Planets / Leaper
Release Date: 08/09/2005   Label: Arte Nova  
Catalog: 277850   Number of Discs: 1
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Holst: Orchestral Music / Pople, London Festival Orchestra
Release Date: 08/08/2006   Label: Arte Nova  
Catalog: 340220   Number of Discs: 1
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Music For Strings - Britten, Holst, Etc / Budapest Strings
Release Date: 01/29/2002   Label: Capriccio Records  
Catalog: 10584   Number of Discs: 1
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Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Holst / Cooke, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Release Date: 09/13/2011   Label: Royal Philharmonic Masterworks  
Catalog: 28740   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: The Planets

Browse 101-102 of 102 Available Recordings
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  • 101.
    Holst: The Planets / William Steinberg, Boston Sym Orch
    Label: Dg Galleria   Catalog: 419475 Release Date: 08/03/1987   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  György Ligeti,  Gustav Holst
    Conductor:  Helmut Franz,  William Steinberg
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  North German Radio Chorus,  Boston Symphony Orchestra
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  • 102.
    Panorama - The Sound Of England
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 469274 Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Gustav Holst,  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  Frederick Delius,  Sir Edward Elgar  ... 
    Performer:  Pinchas Zukerman
    Conductor:  William Steinberg,  Daniel Barenboim,  Sir Charles Mackerras,  Norman Del Mar  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra,  New England Conservatory Chorus,  English Chamber Orchestra  ... 
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Gustav Holst

Holst: The Planets, op.32 - 1. Mars, the Bringer of War
Holst: The Planets, op.32 - 2. Venus, the Bringer of Peace
Holst: The Planets, op.32 - 3. Mercury, the Winged Messenger
Holst: The Planets, op.32 - 4. Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity
Holst: The Planets, op.32 - 5. Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age
Holst: The Planets, op.32 - 6. Uranus, the Magician
Holst: The Planets, op.32 - 7. Neptune, the Mystic
I. Chaconne
II. Intermezzo
III. March
1. March
2. Song without Words
3. Song of the Blacksmith
4. Fantasia on the Dargason