Personalities | Gustav Holst | Modern Era | Classical

(Goos’-tav Holst) 1874–1934
English composer

As young men, Holst and Vaughan Williams were musically and personally close, collecting folk songs together and playing through each other’s works. Unlike Vaughan Williams, Holst had no private income; he made his living first by playing the trombone, then as an inspiring teacher, at St Paul’s Girls’ School, London, and at Morley College (in a then largely working-class area of London). His suite The Planets (1919) achieved great popularity, but the influence of Stravinsky and Holst’s interest in oriental philosophy led him into other, sometimes mystical, areas, epitomized in The Hymn of Jesus (1917) and Ode to Death (1919).

Recommended Recording:
The Planets, The Perfect Fool (ballet music), Egdon Heath, New Philharmonia (cond) Sir Adrian Boult, LSO (cond) André Previn (EMI/Warner)

Sounds Familiar

‘Mars’ from The Planets
‘Mars, the Bringer of War’ is the first of seven movements in Holst’s Planets suite. Completed before the outbreak of World War I (and not therefore an evocation of it) its remorseless five-in-a-bar rhythm is familiar from many film and TV soundtracks, including as the theme tune of the 1950s science-fiction serial The Quatermass Experiment.

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