Haack [Haacke, Haak, Haake], Friedrich Wilhelm

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See under Organ stop (Hohlflöte).

Holschneider, Andreas

(b Freiburg, 6 April 1931). German musicologist and record producer. From 1950 he studied the piano with Edith Picht-Axenfeld at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg, qualifying in 1956. He subsequently studied musicology with Gerstenberg at the University of Tübingen and briefly at Heidelberg and Vienna, taking the doctorate at Tübingen in 1960 with a dissertation on Mozart's arrangement of Handel's Messiah. In 1960–61 he was in Italy studying sources for the new Mozart edition. He then became a research assistant at the musicology institute of Hamburg University, where he completed his Habilitation in musicology in 1967 with a dissertation on the Winchester organa. After working as a Privatdozent he became professor of musicology at Hamburg University (1971). He was made director of the Archiv label of Deutsche Grammophon in 1970, vice-president of Polydor International in 1981 and president of Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft in 1986. Holschneider specializes in the early history of polyphony, performing practice and conventions, and the works of Mozart. He was awarded the Verdienstkreuz am Bande by the German government in 1991.


Händels ‘Messias’ in Mozarts Bearbeitung (diss., U. of Tübingen, 1960; ed. in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Neue Ausgabe sämtlicher Werke, x/28, Abt.1/2, Kassel, 1961)

‘Die “Judas-Macchabäus”-Bearbeitung der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek’, MJb 1960–61, 173–81

‘Die Musiksammlung der Fürsten Doria-Pamphili in Rom’, AMw, xviii (1961), 248–64

Die Organa von Winchester: Studien zum ältesten Repertoire polyphoner Musik (Habilitationsschrift, U. of Hamburg, 1967; Hildesheim, 1968)

‘C.Ph.E. Bachs Kantate “Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu” und Mozarts Aufführung des Jahres 1788’, MJb 1968–70, 264–80

‘Unbekannte Beethoven-Skizzen in Bergamo’, AnMc, no.9 (1970), 130–34 [incl. appx]

‘Zur Aufführungspraxis der Marien-Vesper von Monteverdi’, Hamburger Jb für Musikwissenschaft, i (1974), 59–68

‘The Instrumental Titles to the Sequentiae of the Winchester Tropers’, Essays on Opera and English Music in Honour of Sir Jack Westrup (Oxford, 1975), 8–18; Ger. orig. in Festschrift Georg von Dadelsen, ed. T. Kohlhase and V. Scherliess (Neuhausen-Stuttgart, 1978), 155–66

‘Bach-Rezeption und Bach-Interpretation im 20. Jahrhundert’, Musica, i (1976), 9–19

‘Händels Arkadien’, Göttinger Händel-Beiträge, vi (1991), 39–52

Texte: Vorträge und Aufsätze aus den Jahren 1970 bis 1987 (Hamburg, 1991)

‘Johann Simon Mayr und Mozart’, Mozart-Studien, viii (forthcoming)


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Neue Ausgabe sämtlicher Werke, X:28/1/ii: Bearbeitungen von Werken Georg Friedrich Händels: Der Messias (Kassel, 1961); X:28/1/iii: Bearbeitungen von Werken Georg Friedrich Händels: Das Alexander-Fest (Kassel, 1962); II:5/xiii, appx: Siano pronte alle gran nozze (Kassel, 1966) [from L'oca del Cairo]; X:28/1/iv: Bearbeitungen von Werken Georg Friedrich Händels: Die Cäcilien-Ode (Kassel, 1973)


Holst, Gustav(us Theodore von)

(b Cheltenham, 21 Sept 1874; d London, 25 May 1934). English composer. His prominent position among 20th-century English composers owes a great deal to the immense popularity of his orchestral work The Planets. The only pieces to have achieved comparable success are on a much smaller scale, yet equally idiosyncratic. His wholly individual blend of Hindu philosophy and English folksong set him on a path far from the mainstream of European tradition, although his early works reveal a thorough grounding in conventional forms.

1. Life.

2. The early works.

3. ‘The Planets’.

4. Later works.

5. Style.




Holst, Gustav

1. Life.

Holst’s great-grandfather Matthias (1769–1854) was born in Rīga, of German ancestry, and was a composer, pianist and teacher of the harp to the Imperial Russian court in St Petersburg. Not long after the birth of his first child, Gustavus Valentine, in 1799, Matthias fled to England – apparently as a political exile – where he built up a reputation in London as a teacher and composer of fashionable but insignificant salon pieces. His second son Theodor was born in 1810: a painter of exceptional ability and imagination (pupil of Fuseli), he exhibited at the Royal Academy at the age of 16, but died in comparative obscurity in 1844. Gustavus Valentine settled in Cheltenham in the 1830s and, like his father, taught harp and piano. Several of his five children pursued musical careers; his fourth child Adolph (1846–1901) was an excellent pianist and organist, much involved in local musical activities. In 1871 Adolph von Holst married Clara Lediard, a piano pupil and talented singer; they had two children – Gustav and his younger brother Emil (1876–1951), who became a minor Hollywood film actor under the name Ernest Cossart. Always prone to ill-health, Clara died in 1882 after the still-birth of her third child. Adolph married another of his pupils in 1885: she also gave birth to two sons, but was more concerned with religion and theosophy than with her family.

Gustav Holst was a somewhat sickly child, and although his father taught him the piano from an early age, neuritis in his right arm made it clear that he was unlikely to have a career as a pianist. He also learnt the violin, for which he had little enthusiasm, and, as a cure for asthma, the trombone, which was to prove useful in his early professional life. His first efforts at composition were made in his early teens, and by 1891 he had achieved a number of local performances of vocal and instrumental pieces. After unsuccessfully applying to Trinity College of Music, London, for a scholarship, he was sent by his father to study counterpoint for several months with George Frederick Sims, organist of Merton College, Oxford. On his return to Cheltenham, Holst secured an appointment as organist and choirmaster at a local church, and continued to write for local forces, including, in 1892, an operetta, Lansdown Castle.

In 1893 he gained admission to the RCM where, after further study of counterpoint, he was accepted into Stanford's composition class; his other teachers included Parry. He was awarded a scholarship in composition in 1895, relieving his father of the increasingly difficult burden of supporting him. In the same year he met Vaughan Williams, who was to become his closest friend and a profound influence (more so than his teachers), although the first performance in modern times of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, under Stanford, left a lasting impression. Until then Holst's major obsession had been with Wagner (he had heard Mahler conducting Götterdämmerung at Covent Garden in 1892), and he was to remain under Wagner's shadow until well into the 1900s. Holst's other enthusiasms were for the idealistic philosophies of Walt Whitman and William Morris, and in 1896 he was asked to become conductor of the Hammersmith Socialist Choir, which rehearsed in Morris's house. Among the early members of the choir was Isobel Harrison, whom he was to marry in 1901 (their daughter Imogen was born in 1907). At about this time he also became interested in Hindu literature and philosophy, and took lessons in Sanskrit at University College, London. Although mastering little more than the alphabet, he acquired enough understanding to be able to make his own adaptations of Sanskrit texts.

Holst's second study at the RCM was the trombone, and he undertook freelance engagements while still at the college, in 1897 playing in the Queen's Hall Orchestra under Richard Strauss. Although offered an extension of his scholarship in 1898 he decided instead to join the Carl Rosa Opera Company as trombonist and répétiteur. His compositions up to this point had been competent but uninspiring: he had published only a handful of songs, and a career as a composer was a distant prospect. After two years of opera tours, in which he had nevertheless found time to compose, Holst joined the Scottish Orchestra (now Royal Scottish National Orchestra) in Glasgow (in 1903 he was to play again under Strauss), combining this work with freelance engagements. Although grateful for the opportunity to have learnt about the orchestra from the inside, he took the decision to give up an orchestral career at the end of 1903 and, after several months of unemployment, he was offered a teaching appointment at James Allen's Girls' School in Dulwich, in succession to Vaughan Williams. In 1905 Holst was appointed head of music at St Paul's Girls' School, Hammersmith, where he was to remain until the end of his life. Among other teaching posts he held was that of director of music at Morley College from 1907 until 1924, where he acquired a great feeling for amateur music-making. In 1911 his students there gave the first performance since 1695 of Purcell's The Fairy Queen.

Teaching thus established a pattern for his working life, which remained more or less unchanged until 1925. The soundproof music room at St Paul's School became his refuge for composition at weekends and during the school holidays; from 1914 he also worked at a cottage near Thaxted in the Essex countryside. There in 1916 he established a Whitsun festival in the local church for both amateur and professional musicians, which continued until his death. Holst maintained a puritanical style of life, both in London and in the country, where his greatest pleasure was in taking strenuous walking tours. He rarely took holidays, although a visit to Algeria in 1908 (where he explored the desert on a bicycle) inspired the orchestral suite Beni Mora. One other break occurred when, in the autumn of 1918, he went to work as music organizer for demobilized troops in Salonica and Constantinople. (This activity led him to consider it appropriate to give up the ‘von’ of his name.)

Holst's reputation had been steadily growing during the years before World War I, and in 1917 he wrote the choral and orchestral Hymn of Jesus, perhaps the most characteristic and original work of his maturity. But it was not until The Planets (1914–16) received its first performance in 1918 (by the New Queen's Hall Orchestra under Boult), given privately as a gift from his friend Balfour Gardiner, that he achieved genuine recognition. The sudden popular success of The Planets led to the publication and performance of many earlier works, most importantly of the opera Sāvitri, which had been composed in 1908, towards the end of his Sanskrit period. (An earlier Sanskrit-based opera on a grand scale, Sita, remains unperformed to this day.) But teaching still continued to occupy a great deal of his time, and in the 1920s he held posts at the RCM and University College, Reading. Then, after a fall while conducting in 1923, followed by an arduous first visit to the USA, he was advised on medical grounds to take things more easily. He spent much of 1924 in Thaxted, and in 1925 gave up all his teaching commitments apart from those at St Paul's School.

The first major festival devoted to his music took place in 1927 in Cheltenham, the town where the first British performance of the orchestral Egdon Heath was given the following year, the day after its New York première. Though acknowledged today as one of his most significant works, the piece met with a lukewarm reception. This had indeed been the case with much of Holst's music since The Planets: he refused to court popularity by writing what was expected of him. The huge success of this one work disconcerted a man who was essentially an introvert, although an inspiring figure to his many pupils and followers, and totally without pretension.

In 1932 he was visiting lecturer in composition at Harvard, teaching among others Elliott Carter; but he was taken ill and had to return prematurely to England. During the last 18 months of his life, in spite of having to live largely as an invalid, he composed some of his most individual works, including the Brook Green Suite and the Lyric Movement for viola and orchestra. He died of heart failure on 25 May 1934, after an operation to remove a duodenal ulcer; his ashes were buried in Chichester Cathedral.

Holst, Gustav

2. The early works.

From 1895 until 1933 Holst kept a notebook ‘List of Compositions’, beginning with his opera The Revoke op.1, written while he was a student at the RCM and tried out by college students under Stanford. Like many works written both before and after it, the opera was never published, nor was it performed professionally. Holst developed slowly as a composer, and he reached the age of 30 before achieving a genuinely individual voice in the Whitman setting for soprano and orchestra, The Mystic Trumpeter (although even that work remained unpublished until 1989). His earliest music showed the influence of Mendelssohn, and early attempts at operetta that of Sullivan. In the 1890s Greig, Dvořák and Tchaikovsky were absorbed, and Wagner began to permeate his orchestral style. An ‘Elegy in Memoriam William Morris’ from the Symphony ‘The Cotswolds’ op.8, composed in 1899, is by some way the most accomplished of his ‘apprentice’ works, its harmonic world surprisingly close to that of Skryabin's early piano music. In spite of their derivativeness, Holst's other early orchestral works – A Winter Idyll, the overture Walt Whitman and the Suite de ballet – reveal an instinctive orchestral flair that, among his contemporaries, is matched only by Elgar. Of these works, only the Suite de ballet of 1899 was published, after Holst revised it in 1912.

His early published works consisted for the most part of insignificant ‘salon’ pieces – songs, partsongs and small-scale chamber works. He worked intermittently at two operas, The Magic Mirror and The Youth's Choice, of which only the latter was finished (but not performed). Both are heavily Wagnerian, but by 1904 he was beginning to throw off the pervasive influence of Wagner, and there are many fingerprints of his mature style in The Mystic Trumpeter, as well as a new sense of purpose. The bitonality of the fanfares near the beginning of the work point to the future, and the ecstatic but controlled vocal line reveals an increasing maturity. Holst seemed to be heading in the direction of a late Romanticism that has more in common with the Schoenberg of Verklärte Nacht and Gurrelieder than with any British music of the time. It is fascinating to speculate on what might have resulted had Holst met Schoenberg on the extended visit that he paid to Berlin in 1903.

The English folksong revival, in which his friend Vaughan Williams was one of the pioneers (see Vaughan Williams, Ralph, fig.1), became instead the catalyst which enabled Holst to fuse together the disparate formative elements that were to make the mature composer. The first music to show influence of folksong was the orchestral A Somerset Rhapsody (1906, rev. 1907), founded on traditional tunes and dedicated to Cecil Sharp. The Two Songs without Words, also of 1906, reveal an ability to invent folk-like tunes of his own. At the same time he began making folksong arrangements, although not all of these early efforts were published.

In parallel with this new development was a continuing interest in Sanskrit literature: from 1900 onwards he worked intermittently at the three-act opera Sita, to his own libretto, finally completing it in 1906. Not surprisingly, the music shows a development away from Wagner – Holst himself described it later as ‘good old Wagnerian bawling’ – towards a more personal style, and much of Act 3 is of high quality, in particular the dramatic orchestral interlude between the first and second scenes. But the libretto is naive and irredeemable, full of the archaicisms of contemporary Wagner translations. The only other Sanskrit work of this period is the adventurous but somewhat clumsy symphonic poem Indra (1903). However, between 1907 and 1911 he made many settings of hymns from the Rig Veda, ranging from solo voice and piano to chorus and orchestra, and in 1912 he completed a major choral and orchestral work founded on Sanskrit poetry, The Cloud Messenger, less individual as a whole than some of the Rig Veda hymns, but an impressive attempt at large-scale form.

The ‘oriental suite’ for orchestra, Beni Mora, the direct result of his holiday in Algeria in 1908, is perhaps the most individual work of this period, conjuring up the atmosphere of a North African town without resorting to cliché; the third of its three movements anticipates minimalism with its haunting four-bar ostinato figure repeated nearly 50 times. But by far the most significant achievement of these years was the opera Sāvitri, completed in 1908. Turning his back on the Wagnerian apparatus, Holst contrived what is probably the first chamber opera, with minimal staging, only three characters, and an orchestra of no more than 12 players. Although the libretto, Holst's own, based on an episode from the Mahābhārata is still somewhat stilted, the simplicity of the story – Sāvitri persuades Death to restore her husband Satyavan to her – is matched by a new simplicity of musical language. The starkly bitonal opening of unaccompanied voices was a new departure for Holst, and the use of modality and speech-derived rhythms both come from his study of folk music, here applied perhaps unexpectedly to an oriental subject.

Two unjustly neglected works from the same years, Hecuba's Lament (1911) and the Hymn to Dionysus (1913), demonstrate a turning towards classical themes, only taken up again in 1920 with his choruses from Euripides' Alcestis. Other works show Holst working more successfully on the small scale than the large. The First Suite of 1909, now long established in the military band repertory, and the St Paul's Suite for string orchestra, completed in 1913 and probably his most popular work after The Planets, have both become classics; but the four-movement orchestral suite Phantastes was a disaster, and was withdrawn after its first performance in 1912. The ability to write succinctly and inventively without outstaying the natural development of his material, and to sustain this invention over nearly 50 minutes, is what makes his next major work, The Planets, such a remarkable achievement.

Holst, Gustav

3. ‘The Planets’.

There are few precedents for a seven-movement orchestral work on this scale. The character studies of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition or Elgar's Enigma Variations are individually on a much smaller scale; perhaps closer in concept as abstract pictures in sound are Debussy's La Mer or Nocturnes. Holst was also influenced in form, though only marginally in content, by Schoenberg's Fünf Orchesterstücke, which he heard in 1914 – the original title of The Planets was Seven Pieces for Large Orchestra. He encountered Stravinsky's music as well for the first time in 1914, and though the influence may not seem direct, he himself admitted its importance to him. The work is often referred to as a ‘symphonic suite’, but this is not appropriate: the music's originality does not lie in a symphonic treatment of its subject matter, but in the diversity of form and spontaneity of invention which Holst employs in each movement.

Holst conceived The Planets at least as early as 1913, and the first movement, ‘Mars, the Bringer of War’, was completed in 1914, anticipating rather than influenced by the outbreak of World War I. ‘Venus’ and ‘Jupiter’ followed; ‘Saturn’, ‘Uranus’ and ‘Neptune’ were composed during 1915; ‘Mercury’, the third movement (planned at one stage to be the first), was not finished until 1916; the full score was completed early in 1917. The first public performance of the whole work was not given until 1920, but its reputation had already been established by the private first performance in 1918 and several subsequent partial performances. Holst recorded the work twice, in 1922–3 and in 1926, both times with the LSO. He was, along with Elgar, one of the first composers to commit his music to record, and although he was not as gifted a conductor as his senior colleague, both of the recordings are valuable documents.

A great deal of Holst's musical personality is encapsulated in The Planets: a rare glimpse of the extrovert in ‘Jupiter’, a more characteristic heavy-handed humour in ‘Uranus’, a sad processional in ‘Saturn’. He is at his most relaxed and lyrical in ‘Venus’, a vein that he did not often recapture in later life. Though in mood the other three movements could not be more different one from another, they share a common harmonic background, with a particular emphasis on bitonality: in ‘Mars’ this serves to produce harsh dissonance, in ‘Mercury’ a quicksilver elusiveness, and in ‘Neptune’, remoteness and mystery. In this last movement Holst uses an offstage choir of women's voices, singing wordlessly to magical effect – something he had already employed in Sāvitri (and may have borrowed from the third of Debussy's Nocturnes, which he almost certainly heard the composer conduct in London in 1909).

Holst, Gustav

4. Later works.

Almost as if he had shown too much of a public face in The Planets, Holst immediately turned to more introspective subjects, although the choral and orchestral Hymn of Jesus, composed in 1917, was a considerable popular success in spite of its wholly undoctrinaire approach to religion (fig.2). The key to the work is to be found in the phrase ‘Divine Grace is dancing’ (the words are taken from the apocryphal Acts of John), which Holst sets as part of a central, almost ritualistic, dance: the ecstatic quality of the music, mirroring a gnostic philosophy which was close to Holst's heart, is matched in English music perhaps only by Tippett's The Vision of Saint Augustine. Characteristically Holst's next major work was another abrupt volte-face, turning from life-enhancing spirituality to serene resignation in his choral and orchestral Ode to Death of 1919, the last time he was to set the poetry of Whitman, and one of his most individual achievements. But there is little room in the repertory for choral works that last no more than 12 minutes, and the Ode is perhaps the least performed of his major works.

Although Holst was not a natural composer of opera, he attempted the form a remarkable number of times – including early and unfinished works he composed no less than 11 operas and operettas, but did not achieve a professional performance until 1921, with Sāvitri (his eighth). Towards the end of 1918, during his work with demobilized troops, he began to sketch out the libretto for The Perfect Fool. Completed in 1922, and first performed at Covent Garden in 1923, the opera was his first major failure since The Planets had brought him to prominence. Attempting parody and lightness of touch, Holst was unable to write a coherent scenario: the opera's plot verges on the incomprehensible (the ‘perfect fool’ is a non-singing caricature of Wagner's Parsifal) and the only music of real substance is the opening ballet, an orchestral showpiece which deservedly survives as an independent concert work. In spite of this failure, which he himself acknowledged, he began almost at once on another opera, this time turning to Shakespeare as his librettist. At the Boar's Head is a skilful amalgam of the tavern scenes from Henry IV, with music founded exclusively on old English melodies – country dance tunes from Playford's English Dancing Master of 1651, as well as morris dance tunes, ballads and folksongs. First performed in 1925, it met with hardly more success than The Perfect Fool, despite its more recommendable qualities: the pacing and vitality of the music is remarkable, although it is perhaps too undramatic in concept to make a genuinely viable opera.

Other works of this period show a new interest in counterpoint – the dynamic A Fugal Overture (1922) and the contrastingly lightweight and neo-classical Fugal Concerto (1923) for flute, oboe and strings, composed while on a visit to Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan. His enforced year of rest after this visit saw, as well as the composition of At the Boar's Head, the completion of the First Choral Symphony. (A second was started in 1926, but did not progress much further than the selection of texts.) The words are all taken from the poetry of Keats, including, in the fine second movement, the Ode on a Grecian Urn. The third movement is an impressive Scherzo and Trio, with the reprise of the Scherzo conceived for orchestra alone. But it just falls short of generating the excitement that the work needs at that point, and the Finale fails to provide an adequate resolution as Holst appears to lose his way in a rambling, over-episodic movement, whose finer moments do not succeed in sustaining its length.

The Finale of the Choral Symphony might indeed encapsulate the way in which Holst seemed to lose his musical sense of direction after this period of exclusive concentration on composition. The strangely hybrid ‘choral ballets’, The Golden Goose and The Morning of the Year, composed between 1925 and 1927, are the only notable landmarks among many small-scale and occasional pieces, and both of them work far better in the orchestral suites extracted by Holst's daughter Imogen than in their staged versions. He found the way forward again in 1927 with the composition of Egdon Heath, quickly followed by a succession of small-scale but major works: A Moorside Suite for brass band (1928), Twelve Songs of Humbert Wolfe (1929), the Double Concerto for two violins and orchestra (1929), the impressively individual Choral Fantasia (1930) – a work as unjustly neglected as the Ode to Death – whose striking form results from its original conception as an organ concerto, and Hammersmith, for military band, also rewritten for orchestra (1930). Contemporary with these works was his last and most successful opera, The Wandering Scholar, composed, like Sāvitri, for small insrumental forces, and only four solo singers.

The music of Egdon Heath, inspired by Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native, is elusive and unpredictable. Its three main elements are set out at the beginning – a pulseless wandering melody, first for double basses and then all the strings, a sad brass processional and restless music for strings and oboe. All three intertwine and transmute, eventually coming to rest with music of desolation, out of which emerges a ghostly dance, the strangest moment in a strange work. After this comes a resolution of sorts, and the ending, though hardly conclusive, gives the impression of an immense journey achieved, even though Egdon Heath lasts no more than 12 minutes. Holst seems to have been stimulated rather than depressed by the work's lack of public success, and the music that followed shows no sign of courting popularity. Hammersmith, a prelude and scherzo for military band, though written for an ostensibly popular medium, is as uncompromising in its way as Egdon Heath, discovering, in the words of Imogen Holst, ‘in the middle of an over-crowded London … the same tranquillity that he had found in the solitude of Egdon Heath’. With The Wandering Scholar he at last achieved the right medium for his oblique sense of humour, writing with economy and directness, and for the first time since his student years relying on a librettist (Clifford Bax, brother of the composer Arnold Bax), the plot based upon an incident from Helen Waddell's book The Wandering Scholars. He was however too ill to attend the first performance in 1934, and the work remained in limbo until Britten revived it for the English Opera Group in 1951. Britten and Imogen Holst edited the opera for its first publication in 1968.

Although ill-health dogged Holst's last years he continued to write with new found facility, completing in 1932 a powerful set of Six Choruses for male voices and strings to Helen Waddell's translations of medieval Latin lyrics, and the Brook Green Suite, a last present for the orchestra of St Paul's School in 1933. He even found time to write a film score, The Bells (now lost) in 1931, and to plan another in 1933. His last works were the remarkably beautiful Lyric Movement for viola and orchestra, and the Scherzo for a symphony, whose other movements never advanced beyond fragmentary sketches.

Holst, Gustav

5. Style.

Holst is an enigmatic composer, who found his own way without undue influence from others, and who has had surprisingly little influence on succeeding composers, although Vaughan Williams learnt as much from him as he in turn gave to Holst. His musical language was not conventional: once he had freed himself from the influence of Wagner, it became progressively more angular and contrapuntal, and his use of modality is very different from that of other English composers, having more in common with Hindemith. He was averse to theorizing about music, once writing that ‘a composer is usually quite unconscious of what is going on’, and revealed very little about his technique of composition. He was not a great innovator, but the rhythmic impetus behind much of his music, and his use of unconventional time signatures combined with cross- and permutated rhythms probably derived from the English madrigalists, mark him out as a genuine individual. Other personal hallmarks are his use of ostinato, and with it, rising and falling scale patterns; melodically his music is marked by a predilection for fourths and fifths. Once he had outgrown the chromaticism of his early works he remained firmly wedded to tonality, although much of his harmonic originality is owed to a subtle use of bitonality, and sometimes polytonality: counterpoint in several different keys simultaneously came easily to him. He commented that his technique was ‘something quite apart from the hits and squashes of conventional modern harmony’.

He was an outstanding teacher, but worked almost exclusively with children and amateurs, frequently devoting more time to them than to his own work. His personal synthesis of seemingly disparate elements led to music of distinctive originality, concise and sometimes austere, yet aspiring to a visionary quality like no other. But he was also prone to unexpected lapses of judgment, especially in his stage works; and his very few chamber works are mostly of little significance. There is a strange lack of consistency in Holst's music, which stems not from any lack of technical proficiency – even his earliest works reveal a thorough facility – but rather from an almost stubborn desire to be unpredictable. Imogen Holst well describes the often disconcertingly laconic nature of his musical language: ‘as soon as he had made his point, he stopped’.

Holst is inevitably identified with The Planets above the rest of his music: its deserved but disproportionately huge popularity has overshadowed not only his own status as a composer of genuine originality, but also the freshness and resource of the work itself. He was constitutionally incapable of repeating himself, and, although his character is not easy to assess, it is easy to imagine his puzzlement at the thought that he might be expected to do so. Holst's capacity for self-renewal and for avoiding the shallow and obvious mark him out as, if not the most gifted of his English contemporaries, probably the most individual.

Holst, Gustav


Edition: Collected Facsimile Edition of Autograph Manuscripts of the Published Works, ed. I. Holst, i–iv (London, 1974–83) [CFE]; I. Holst: A Thematic Catalogue of Gustav Holst's Music (1974) [H]



Lansdown Castle (operetta, 2, A.C. Cunningham), 1892, Cheltenham, 7 Feb 1893, unpubd: H. Appx I, 21


The Revoke (op, 1, F. Hart), 1895, unpubd, H7

The Idea (children’s operetta, Hart), c1898, H21


The Youth’s Choice (op, 1, Holst), 1902, unpubd, H60


Sita (op, 3, Holst, from the Ramayana), 1900–06, unpubd; Act 3 orch. interlude, c1905–6, ed. C. Matthews, 1983, S 1983 Lyrita, LSO cond. D. Atherton, H89


Sāvitri (chbr op, 1, Holst, from the Mahābhārata), 1908; cond. H. Grunebaum, London, 5 Dec 1916, H96, CFE i


The Vision of Dame Christian (masque), 1909, unpubd, H101

The Sneezing Charm (incid music, C. Bax), 1918, unpubd, H143

7 Choruses from Alcestis (Euripides, trans. G. Murray), 1920, H146

The Lure (ballet), 1921; S 1983 Lyrita, LSO, cond. D. Atherton, H149


The Perfect Fool (op, 1, Holst), 1918–22; cond. E. Goossens, London, CG, 14 May 1923, H150


At the Boar’s Head (op, 1, after W. Shakespeare: Henry IV), 1924; cond. M. Sargent, Manchester, 3 April 1925, H156


The Golden Goose (choral ballet, J. Joseph), 1926; cond. Holst, Hammersmith, 24 May 1926, H163


The Morning of the Year (choral ballet, S. Wilson), 1926–7; BBC National Orch, cond. Holst, London, Royal Albert Hall, 17 March 1927, H164

The Coming of Christ (incid music, J. Masefield), 1927; cond. Holst, Canterbury, 28 May 1928, H170


The Wandering Scholar (chbr op, 1, Bax), 1929–30; cond. J.E. Wallace, Liverpool, 31 Jan 1934, H176, CFE i

choral with orchestra or ensemble


Clear and Cool (C. Kingsley), chorus, orch, 1897, unpubd, H30


King Estmere (anon.), chorus, orch, 1903; cond. E. Mason, London, Queen’s Hall, 4 April 1908, H70


Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda (trans. Holst):


—1st group: Battle Hymn, To the Unknown God, Funeral Hymn, chorus orch, 1908–10; Newcastle, 6 Dec 1911, H97


—2nd group: To Varuna, To Agni, Funeral Chant, female chorus, orch, 1909; cond. Mason, Queen's Hall, 22 March 1911, H98


—3rd group: Hymn to the Dawn, Hymn to the Waters, Hymn to Vena, Hymn of the Travellers, female chorus, hp, orch, 1910; Blackburn, 16 March 1911, H99


—4th group: Hymn to Agni, Hymn to Soma, Hymn to Manas, Hymn to Indra, male chorus, str, brass, perc, 1912, cond. Mason, Queen's Hall, 18 March 1914, H100

O England my Country (G.K. Menzies), unison chorus, orch, 1909; H103

Christmas Day (trad.), chorus, orch, 1910, H109


The Cloud Messenger (Kalidasa, trans. Holst), chorus, orch, 1909–10; cond. Holst, Queen’s Hall, 4 March 1913, H111


Hecuba’s Lament (Euripides, trans. Murray), A solo, female chorus, orch, 1911; H115

2 Pss: Ps lxxxvi (J. Bryan), Ps cxlviii (F.R. Gray), T, chorus, str, org, 1912, H117


Hymn to Dionysus (Euripides, trans. Murray), female chorus, orch, 1913; cond. Holst, Queen’s Hall, 10 March 1914, H116

A Dirge for Two Veterans (W. Whitman), male chorus, brass, perc, 1914, H121

3 Carols: I saw three ships (trad.), Christmas Song (trans. J. Joseph), Masters in this Hall (W. Morris), unison chorus, orch, 1916–17, H133


Three Festival Choruses: Let all mortal flesh (liturgical, trans. G. Moultrie), Turn back O Man (C. Bax), A Festival Chime (Bax), chorus, orch, 1916; cond. Holst, Thaxted, St John the Baptist, 27 May 1917, H134


The Hymn of Jesus (apocryphal Acts of John, trans. Holst), 2 chorus, female semichorus, orch, 1917; cond. Holst, Queen’s Hall, 25 March 1920, H140


Ode to Death (Whitman), chorus, orch, 1919; cond. E. Coates, Leeds, 6 Oct 1922, H144

Short Festival Te Deum, chorus, orch, 1919, H145

I vow to thee, my country (C. Spring Rice), unison chorus, orch, c1921 [arr. from The Planets, no.4], H148


First Choral Symphony (J. Keats), S, chorus, orch, 1923–4; cond. Coates, Leeds, 7 Oct 1925, H155, CFE iv


7 Partsongs (R. Bridges): Say who is this?, O Love, I complain, Angel Spirits of Sleep, When we first met, Sorrow and Joy, Love on my heart from Heaven fell, Assemble all ye maidens, S, female chorus, str, 1925–6, H162


A Choral Fantasia (Bridges), S, chorus, org, str, brass, perc, 1930; cond. Holst, Gloucester, 8 Sept 1931, H177


6 Choruses (medieval Latin, trans. H. Waddell): Intercession, Good Friday, Drinking Song, A Love Song, How mighty are the Sabbaths, orch, Before Sleep, male chorus, str/org/pf, 1931–2, H186

other choral

unaccompanied unless otherwise stated

Light Leaves Whisper (F.B. Hart), chorus, c1896, H20

Clouds o'er the Summer Sky (Hart), female chorus 2vv, pf, c1898, H40


5 Partsongs: Love is Enough (W. Morris), To Sylvia (F. Thompson), Autumn Song (Morris), Come away, Death (Shakespeare), A Love Song (Morris), chorus, 1897–1900, no.4 unpubd, H48


Ave Maria, female chorus 8vv, 1900; London, 23 May 1901, H49

I love thee (T. Hood), chorus, H57


5 Partsongs: Dream Tryst (Thompson), Ye Little Birds (T. Heywood), Her eyes the glow-worm lend thee (R. Herrick), Now is the month of Maying (anon.), Come to me (C. Rossetti), chorus, 1902–3, nos.3, 5 unpubd, H61

Thou didst delight my eyes (Bridges), chorus, before 1904, H58

In the bleak midwinter, SATB, org, 1904/5, H73 no.1

In Youth is Pleasure (R. Wever), chorus, H76


Songs from The Princess (A. Tennyson): Sweet and low, The splendour falls, Tears, idle tears, O swallow, swallow, Now sleeps the crimson petal, female chorus 3–8vv, 1905, H80


4 Old English Carols (anon.): A babe is born, Now let us sing, Jesu, thou the Virgin-born, The Saviour of the World, chorus or female chorus, pf, 1907, H82

2 Carols (anon.): A Welcome Song, chorus, ob, vc, before 1908, Terly Terlow, chorus, ob, vc, 1916, H91

Pastoral (anon.), female chorus, c1908, H92

4 Partsongs (J.G. Whittier): Song of the Ship-Builders, Song of the Shoemakers, Song of the Fishermen, Song of the Drovers, female chorus, pf, 1910, H110

2 Eastern Pictures (Kalidasa, trans. Holst): Spring, Summer, female chorus, hp, 1911, H112

The swallow leaves her nest (T.L. Beddoes), female chorus, before 1913, H119

The Homecoming (T. Hardy), male chorus, 1913, H120

Nunc dimittis (liturgical), chorus 8vv, 1915; Westminster Cathedral, 4 April 1915, H127


This have I done for my true love (trad.), chorus, 1916; cond. Holst, Thaxted, St John the Baptist, 19 May 1918, H128


Lullay my liking (anon.), S, chorus, 1916, H129


Of one that is so fair (anon.), S, A, T, B, chorus, c1916, H130


Bring us in good ale (anon.), chorus, 1916, H131


6 Choral Folk Songs (trad.): I sowed the seeds of love, There was a tree, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, The Song of the Blacksmith, I love my love, Swansea Town, arr. chorus/male chorus (excluding no.2), 1916, H136

Diverus and Lazarus (trad.), arr. chorus, c1917, H137

2 Partsongs (Whittier): The Corn Song, Song of the Lumbermen, female chorus 2vv, pf, 1917, H138

A Dream of Christmas (anon.), female chorus 2vv, str/pf, 1917, H139


The Evening-Watch (H. Vaughan), chorus 8vv, 1924; cond. Holst, Gloucester, 10 Sept 1925, H159


Sing me the men (D.M. Dolben), chorus 9vv, 1925, H160

2 Anthems (Bridges): Man born to toil, Eternal Father, chorus, org, bells ad lib, S in no.2, 1927, H168, H169

Wassail Song (trad.), arr. chorus, c1928–30, H182

12 Welsh Folk Songs (trad., trans. S. Wilson): Lisa Lan, Green Grass, The Dove, Awake, awake, The Nightingale and Linnet, The Mother-in-Law, The First Love, O 'twas on a Monday morning, My sweetheart's like Venus, White Summer Rose, The Lively Pair, The Lover's Complaint, arr. chorus, 1930–31, H183

8 Canons (medieval Latin, trans. Waddell), equal vv: If you love songs, 3vv, Lovely Venus, 3vv, The Fields of Sorrow, 3vv, David's Lament for Jonathan, 3vv, O Strong of Heart, 9vv, Truth of all Truth, 6vv, Evening on the Moselle, 2vv, pf, If 'twere the Time of Lilies, 2vv, pf, 1932, H187

orchestral and band

including works with solo voice

A Winter Idyll, 1897, unpubd; BBC, 1983, H31


Örnulf's Drapa (H. Ibsen, trans. W. Archer), Bar, orch, 1898, unpubd, H34


Walt Whitman, ov., 1899, unpubd; London, 23 July 1982, H42


Symphony ‘The Cotswolds’, F, 1899–1900, unpubd, except for 2nd movt as Elegy in Memoriam William Morris; Bournemouth, 24 April 1902, H47


Suite de ballet, E, 1899, rev. 1912; cond. Holst, London, 20 May 1904, H43


Indra, sym. poem, 1903; rec. 1983, LSO cond. D. Atherton, S 1983 Lyrita, H66


The Mystic Trumpeter (Whitman), S, orch, 1904, rev. 1912; cond. Holst, Queen's Hall, 29 June 1905, H71


A Song of the Night, vn, orch, 1905; London, 20 Sept 1984, H74


Invocation, vc, orch, 1911; cond. L. Ronald, Queen's Hall, 2 May 1911, H75


Songs of the West, 1906–7, unpubd, H86


A Somerset Rhapsody, 1906–7; cond. Mason, Queen's Hall, 6 April 1910, H87


Two Songs without Words: Country Song, Marching Song, chbr orch, 1906, cond. Holst, London, RCM, 19 July 1906; Marching Song arr. military band, 1930; H88


Suite no.1, E, military band, 1909, H105


Suite no.2, F, military band, 1911; Royal Albert Hall, 30 June 1922, H106


Beni Mora, oriental suite, 1909–10; cond. Holst, Queen's Hall, 1 May 1912, H107

Phantastes, suite, F, 1911, unpubd, withdrawn, H108

Incidental Music to a London Pageant, military band, unison chorus, 1911; Crystal Palace, 1911, H114


St Paul's Suite, str, 1912–13, H118, CFE ii


The Planets: Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune (with female chorus 8vv), 1914–16; private perf., New Queen's Hall Orch, cond. A. Boult, Queen's Hall, 29 Sept 1918; LSO, cond. Coates, public perf. Queen's Hall, 15 Nov 1920; H125, CFE iii


Japanese Suite, 1915; ? London Coliseum, 1916, H126

The Perfect Fool, 1918 [ballet music from op.39]; cond. Coates, Queen's Hall, 1 Dec 1921, H150


A Fugal Overture, 1922; as ov. to The Perfect Fool, cond. Goossens, CG, 14 May 1923, H151


A Fugal Concerto, fl, ob, str, 1923; private perf., U. of Michigan, 17 May 1923; public perf., cond. Holst, Queen's Hall, 11 Oct 1923; H152, CFE ii

The Golden Goose, suite [from op.45/1], arr. I. Holst, 1970, H163

Dances from The Morning of the Year [from op.45/2], arr. I. Holst and C. Matthews, 1981, H164


Egdon Heath (Homage to Hardy), 1927; New York SO, cond. W. Damrosch, New York, Mecca Auditorium, 12 Feb 1928; CBSO, cond. Holst, Cheltenham, 13 Feb 1928; H172

A Moorside Suite, brass band, 1928; Crystal Palace, 29 Sept 1928, H173; 2nd movt ‘Nocturne’ arr. str orch, ?1928

The Dream-City, S, orch, arr. C. Matthews from 12 Songs; London, 1984, H174


Double Concerto, 2 vn, orch, 1929; A. Fachiri, J. d’Aranyi, cond. O. Fried, Queen's Hall, 3 April 1930, H175, CFE ii


Hammersmith: Prelude, Scherzo, military band, 1930; ?Washington, 17 April 1932; 2nd version, orch, 1931; BBC SO, cond. Boult, Queen's Hall, 25 Nov 1931, H178

Jazz-Band Piece, 1932; ed. I. Holst as Capriccio, 1967; London, Queen Elizabeth Hall, 10 Jan 1968, H185

Brook Green Suite, str, 1933; cond. Holst, London, St Paul's Girls' School, March 1934, H190, CFE ii

Lyric Movement, va, chbr orch, 1933; L. Tertis, BBC SO, cond. Boult, London, BBC studio, 18 March 1934, H191, CFE ii

Scherzo, 1933–4; BBC SO, cond. Boult, Queen's Hall, 6 Feb 1935, H192

chamber and solo instrumental

String Trio, g, 1894; Aldeburgh, 1984, H Appx I, 34


Fantasiestücke, ob, str qt, 1896, rev. 1910, unpubd, H8


Quintet, a, pf, ob, cl, hn, bn, 1896, unpubd, H11


Wind Quintet, A, 1903; Nash Ensemble, London, Wigmore Hall, 15 Sept 1982, H67

7 Scottish Airs, arr. str, pf, 1907, H93


3 Pieces, ob, str qt, 1910 [rev. of op.2]; London, 1911, H8A

Phantasy (British trad.), str qt, 1916, unpubd, withdrawn; arr. I. Holst as Fantasia on Hampshire Folksongs, str orch, 1970, H135

Toccata, pf, 1924, H153

Terzetto, f, ob, va, 1925; London, 2 March 1926, H158


Chrissemas Day in the morning, pf, 1926, H165


Folk Song Fragments: O I hae seen the roses blaw, The Shoemaker, pf, 1927, H166

Nocturne, pf, 1930, H179

Jig, pf, 1932, H179


for voice and piano unless otherwise stated


4 Songs: Slumber-Song (H. Kingsley), Margrete's Cradle-Song (H. Ibsen, trans. W. Archer), Soft and gently (H. Heine), unpubd, Awake, my heart (R. Bridges), 1896–8, H14


6 Songs, Bar, pf: Invocation to the Dawn (Rig Veda, trans. Holst), Fain would I change that note (anon.), The Sergeant's Song (T. Hardy), In a wood (Hardy), Between us now (Hardy), I will not let thee go (Bridges), 1902–3, nos.2, 4, 5, 6 unpubd, H68


6 Songs, S, pf: Calm is the morn (A. Tennyson), My true love hath my heart (P. Sidney), Weep you no more (anon.), Lovely kind and kindly loving (N. Breton), Cradle Song (W. Blake), Peace (A. Hyatt), 1903–4, nos.1, 2, 5, 6 unpubd, H69


Hymns from the Rig Veda (trans. Holst): Ushas [Dawn], Varuna I [Sky], Maruts [Stormclouds], Indra (God of Storm and Battle), Varuna II [The Waters], Song of the Frogs, Vac [Speech], Creation, Faith, 1907–8, H90

The heart worships (A. Buckton), 1907, H95


4 Songs (anon., 15th century), S/T, vn: Jesu sweet, now will I sing, My soul has nought but fire and ice, I sing of a maiden, My Leman is so true, 1916–17; Thaxted, St John the Baptist, 27 May 1917, H132


12 Songs (H. Wolfe): Persephone, Things lovelier, Now in these fairylands, A Little Music, The Thought, The Floral Bandit, Envoi, The Dream-City, Journey's End, In the Street of Lost Time, Rhyme, Betelgeuse, 1929; Paris, 9 Nov 1929, H174


H. Purcell: The Gordian Knot Untied, The Virtuous Wife, The Married Beau, suites, str orch, ww ad lib

J.S. Bach: Fugue à la gigue, orch/military band

Several sets of 17th- and 18th-century canons and glees

MSS in GB-Lbl

Principal publishers: Boosey & Hawkes, Faber, Novello, OUP, Stainer & Bell

Holst, Gustav


DNB (R. Vaughan Williams)

E. Evans: ‘Modern British Composers: 6. Gustav Holst’, MT, lx (1919), 524–8, 588–92, 657–61

R. Vaughan Williams: ‘Gustav Holst’, ML, i (1920), 181–90, 305–17; repr. in National Music and other Essays (London, 1963)

K. Eggar: ‘How they Make Music at Morley College’, Music Student, xiii (1921), 359–61

C. Bax: Inland Far (London, 1925)

F. Gray: And gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche (London, 1931)

A. Bliss: ‘Gustav Holst: a Lonely Figure in Music’, Radio Times (15 June 1934)

A. Boult: ‘Gustav Holst: the Man and his Work’, Radio Times (15 June 1934)

E. Evans: ‘Gustav Holst’, MT, lxxv (1934), 593–7

A. Foster: ‘Gustav Holst: an Appreciation’, MMR, lxiv (1934), no.758 p.126 only

G. Jacob: ‘Holst the Composer’, R.C.M. Magazine, xxx (1934), 81–3; repr. in lxxx/2 (1984), 85–6

R. Capell: ‘Death Comes to Satyavan’, Radio Times (18 Oct 1935)

C. Bax: Ideas and People (London, 1936) [chap. 6 on Holst]

I. Holst: Gustav Holst: a Biography (London, 1938, 2/1969/R)

C. Bax: ‘Recollections of Gustav Holst’, ML, xx (1939), 1–6

W. Mellers: ‘Holst and the English Language’, MR, ii (1941), 228–34; repr. in Studies in Contemporary Music (London, 1947/R)

E. Rubbra: Gustav Holst (Monaco, 1947)

I. Holst: The Music of Gustav Holst (London, 1951, rev. 3/1985, incl. Holst's Music Reconsidered)

R. Cantrick: ‘Hammersmith and the Two Worlds of Gustav Holst’, ML, xxxvii (1956), 211–20

M. Tippett: ‘Holst: Figure of our Time’, The Listener (13 Nov 1958)

U. Vaughan Willams and I. Holst, eds.: Heirs and Rebels (London, 1959/R) [incl. correspondence between Holst and R. Vaughan Williams, and writings]

J. Warrack: ‘A New Look at Gustav Holst’, MT, civ (1963), 100–103

U. Vaughan Williams: R.V.W.: a Biography of Ralph Vaughan Williams (London, 1964)

A. Boult: ‘Interpreting The Planets’, MT, cxi (1970), 263–4

A. Boult: My Own Trumpet (London, 1973)

A. Boult: ‘Gustav Holst’, R.C.M. Magazine, lxx (1974), 52–4

I. Holst: Holst (London, 1974, 2/1981)

I. Holst: ‘Holst and the Royal College of Music’, R.C.M. Magazine , lxx (1974), 48–51

I. Holst: A Thematic Catalogue of Gustav Holst's Music (London, 1974)

S. Lloyd and E. Rubbra, eds.: Gustav Holst: Collected Essays (London, 1974)

H. Ottaway: ‘Holst as an Opera Composer’, MT, cxv (1974), 473–4

M. Short, ed.: Gustav Holst (1874–1934): a Centenary Documentation (London, 1974)

M. Short, ed.: Gustav Holst: Letters to W.G. Whittaker (Glasgow, 1974)

J. Warrack: ‘Holst and the Linear Principle’, MT, cxv (1974), 732–5

F. Wilkinson: ‘Gustav Holst as a Friend’, R.C.M. Magazine, lxx (1974), 54–7

I. Holst and C. Matthews, eds.: Gustav Holst: Collected Facsimile Edition of Autograph Manuscripts of the Published Works (London, 1974–83)

D.R. Boyer: ‘Holst's The Hymn of Jesus: an Investigation into Mysticism in Music’, MR, xxxvi (1975), 272–83

I. Holst, ed.: A Scrapbook for the Holst Birthplace Museum (Cheltenham, 1978)

J.N. Moore, ed.: Music and Friends: Seven Decades of Letters to Adrian Boult (London, 1979)

P. Pirie: The English Musical Renaissance (London, 1979)

I. Holst: ‘Holst's At the Boar's Head’, MT, cxxiii (1982), 321–2

M. Kennedy: ‘The English Musical Renaissance, 1880–1920’, Gramophone, lx (1982–3), 211–12

I. Holst: ‘Holst in the 1980s’, MT, cxxv (1984), 266–7, 269

S. Lloyd: H. Balfour Gardiner (Cambridge, 1984)

C. Matthews: ‘Some Unknown Holst’, MT, cxxv (1984), 269, 271–2

R. Head: ‘Holst and India’, Tempo, no.158 (1986), 2–7; no.160 (1987), 27–37; no.166 (1988), 35–40

J. Mitchell: From Kneller Hall to Hammersmith: the Band Works of Gustav Holst (Tutzing, 1990)

M. Short: Gustav Holst: the Man and his Music (Oxford, 1990)

A. Gibbs: ‘Holst and Gregynog’, MR, lv (1994), 23–36

A. Dickinson: Holst's Music: a Guide, ed. A. Gibbs (London, 1995)

R. Greene: Holst: The Planets (Cambridge, 1995)

E. Macan: ‘Holst's “Mars”: a Model of Goal-Oriented Bitonality’, Music in Performance and Society: Essays in Honor of Roland Jackson, ed. M. Cole and J. Koegel (Warren, MI, 1997), 411–22

H. Hein: ‘Die First Choral Symphony von Gustav Holst’, AMw, liv (1997), 34–67

R. Head: ‘The Hymn of Jesus: Holst’s Gnostic Exploration of Time and Space’, Tempo, no.209 (1999), 7–13

A. Gibbs: Holst among Friends (London, 2000)
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