Gustavus Theodore von Holst

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These famous remarks from Gustav Holst, “Never compose anything till the not composing of it becomes a true irritation to you,” perfectly capture the depth and fervor with which he pursued the pinnacles of musical composition. Gustav Holst, a well-known composer best known as the author of “The Planets,” had a significant impact on mid-century rock music. He was one of the select few men known as post romantics. He shared a passion for English folk music with his buddy Vaughan Williams and contributed to the expansion of English orchestral music beyond of the borders of his native country. Holst was a master in every field he worked in; he was not only a brilliant composer but also a talented educator who left a musical legacy for future generations. He had an eastern influence, which set his music apart from that of his contemporaries. Thanks to his creative and fascinating mind, his expertise also included Sanskrit literature, astrology, chamber music, vocal and symphonic music, and operas. It makes sense why Holst has a unique place in the annals of 20th-century music.

The Early life of Childhood

Gustav Holst was the first of two children born to Adolph and Clara Von Holst on September 21, 1874 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England. Adolph, his father, was a well-known musician who neglected his wife Clara and their two children in favor of practicing and teaching the piano. One of Adolph’s forefathers, who was of Swedish descent, was a court musician in Russia until he lost favor and was sent to Germany. The family moved to England soon after. His mother was of Spanish descent; her great-grandmother came to Ireland after being hitched to an Irishman.

When Gustav was just eight years old, Clara passed away shortly after the birth of his brother, Emil Gottfried (who later rose to fame as the Hollywood actor Ernest Cossart). Nina, Adolph’s sister, took care of the kids. But in 1885, after his wife passed away, Gustav’s father wed Mary Thorley Stone. The couple gave birth to two children, Matthias Ralph and Evelyn Thorley. After his grandfather and great-uncle Theodor, a painter, Holst was given the name Gustavus Theodore von Holst.

Physically, Gustav was a frail youngster. He had weak eyes, and his chest was weak. However, his father mostly paid no attention to his bodily suffering. Additionally, he suffered from arm neuritis, which bothered him his entire life. He was given a piano and a violin as a child, and at the age of twelve, he began writing music. His father believed that taking trombone lessons would help him with his asthma, so he also started going. Gustav attended Cheltenham Grammar School for Boys for his formal schooling. He began writing music while still in school, including symphonies, anthems, songs, and keyboard pieces. He also served as the choir master and organist at Wyck Rissington in the Cotswolds.

Education of Gustavus Theodore von Holst

He received a scholarship to the Royal College of Music, where Charles Villiers Stanford taught composition. He met fellow student Ralph Vaughan Williams here in 1895, and the two became lifelong friends. Despite having quite diverse musical tastes, they maintained a strong friendship that extended both personally and professionally. After hearing how highly Vaughan regarded Holst’s compositions, the two men became interested in researching and preserving the English vocal and choral tradition, which is predominantly represented in folk song, madrigals, and church music. When they were writing, they also began offering constructive critique to one another, and the trust between them never wavered.

Holst was greatly affected by the music of Wagner, which he frequently heard at Cover Garden, while he was a student at the Royal College of Music. William Morris, who encouraged him to join the Hammersmith Socialist Choir, had an impact on him as well. Additionally, he was invited to teach pieces by Mozart and himself as well as choruses by Purcell, Wagner, and Thomas Morley to the Hammersmith Socialist Choir. Isobel Harrison, the newest soprano, captured his heart there. His first composition as a student, “Winter Idyll,” which showed Wagner, Mendelssohn, and Grieg’s influences, was completed by 1897. By that time, he was playing the trombone in theater orchestras and the organ in London churches. He regrettably left the Royal College of Music the next year after receiving a job offer from Carl Rosa Opera Company to play first trombone. He first became interested in Hindu philosophy and Sanskrit literature in the year 1895. He desired to put some Rig Veda hymns to music. He chose to learn Sanskrit after deciding that the English translations were worthless, which allowed him to enter a new universe.

Holst enrolled at University College London (UCL) as a “non-matriculated” student to study Sanskrit in order to master the language. He worked on the opera “Sita,” which was based on the epic Ramayana, from 1899 to 1906. Even though the piece was never played during his lifetime, it helped to direct his musical approach. In 1900, Holst created “Ave Maria,” his first piece that was published, as well as the elegy “Cotswold Symphony,” written in honor of William Morris. He also wrote the symphonic poem “Indra” in 1903, which paints a vivid picture of the god Indra and his struggle with the drought. His other Sanskrit compositions include the chamber opera “Sâvitri” (1908), which is based on a Mahabharata story; four collections of hymns from the Rig Veda (1908–14); and two works by the Indian poet Kalidasa, Two Eastern Pictures (1909–10) and The Cloud Messenger (1909–10). (1913). He married Isobel in 1901.

A superb educator of Gustavus Theodore von Holst

Gustav started to focus more on his composition after receiving some money from his father after his passing. However, the publisher rejected the majority of his tunes, forcing his wife to manufacture garments for her friends in order to make ends meet. At this time, he started his first teaching position at James Allen’s Girls School in Wets Dulwich, South London, as the music master. He was appointed the Director of Music at the London institution St. Paul’s Girls School in Hammersmith in 1905. In 1907, Gustav was appointed Director of Music at Morley College; he held both of these teaching positions until his death.

In the 20th century, Holst and his friend Vaughan Williams discovered a mutual interest in Tudor composers, madrigal singers, and old English folk tunes. He went to Algeria in 1908 on a doctor’s prescription to heal his asthma, as well as for the treatment of a crippling depression brought on by his failure to win the Ricordi Prize, a prestigious composition award. Along with fellow composer Balfour Gardiner and the brothers Clifford and Arnold Bax, he traveled to Spain in 1912 after receiving a lackluster reaction to his choral composition “The Cloud Messenger.” The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky incited riots led Paris and harsh condemnation in London in 1913.

Gustav heard Schoenberg’s “Five Pieces for Orchestra” the next year. Gustav’s work on “The Planets” was influenced by these two pieces. Works for “wind band” by Holst, which were composed at this time, became the norm for the genre. First Suite in E-flat for Military Band (1909) and Second Suite in F for Military Band (1911) are two of his well-known pieces from this era (1911). In 1928, he also created the “Moorside Suite” for brass band. Following that, Holst also began creating “The Planets,” his most well-known composition.

Holst attempted to enlist during World War I but was turned down because of his poor eyesight and failing lungs. In response to the anti-German feeling, he omitted the “von” from his name in 1916. However, the rising popularity of English music helped his music. Near the end of the war, Holst received an offer to work as the music director for the YMCA’s educational work program. The Planets was performed in London during this period. On a journey to Salonica (current-day Thessaloniki, Greece) and Constantinople (current-day Istanbul) in 1918, Gustav also instructed military troupes in music. Following his return, Holst wrote “Ode to Death,” a piece of music based on a Walt Whitman poem.

His reputation greatly increased between 1920 and 1923 as a result of the success of “The Planets” and “The Hymn of Jesus” (1917). One of the most well-known English songwriters of his day was recognized as him. Due to his busy schedule that included conducting, teaching, and lecture duties, his already weakened health took a turn for the worst in 1923 when he collapsed. This prompted him to give up all teaching positions (except from at St. Paul’s School) so that he could focus only on composing.
Later Years

After Holst retired, he composed the “First Choral Symphony” with lyrics by Keats. At the Boar’s Head, a brief Shakespearian opera, came next, although neither had the same immediate popularity as 1928’s “A Moorside Suite for Brass Band.” Additionally, Holst promoted his work via audio recordings and BBC wireless broadcasts. He used an acoustic approach to command the London Symphony Orchestra for the Columbia business in 1922. He was asked to write a symphony for the New York Symphony Orchestra in 1927, but instead he created an orchestra based on Thomas Hardy’s “Wessex.”

A month after Hardy’s passing, the piece “Egdon Heath” was played solely for evaluation. It was hailed as Holst’s finest creation. Later in his life, he received a contract from BBC to write a piece for a military band. The outcome was “Hammersmith,” a musical ode to the London borough where he spent the majority of his life. Although the movie suffered from inadequate marketing and there is no record of a copy of “The Bells,” Holst created a score for it since he was always eager to participate in new media. Additionally, Gustav composed a “Jazz band composition,” which his daughter later had orchestrated. His academic career reached a late apex in 1932 when Harvard University awarded him a six-month lectureship. A few months before he passed away, one of his final compositions, the “Brook Green Suite,” which bears the name of the plot of land on which St. Paul’s Girls’ School was built, was played.

On May 25, 1934, in London, Holst passed away from complications following stomach surgery. Bishop George Bell delivered a eulogy at the funeral, and his ashes were placed in West Sussex’s Chichester Cathedral.

The works of Gustav Holst are numerous and numerous. Several of the key works on Gustav are as follows:
The Revocable (1895)
the notion (1896)
With “Cotswold Symphony” (1900)
I am Maria (1900)
Youth’s Option (1902)
Indra (1903)
Sita (1899-1906)
An English Rhapsody (1906-07)
Sâvitri (1908)
London’s A Song (1909)
Prince Philip (1910)
Suite St. Paul (1913)
A planets (1916)
The Jesus Hymn (1917)
The Flame and the Moth (1921)
(1918–1922) Perfect Fool
Op. 40, No. 1 in A Fugal Overture (1922)
Goose Golden (1926)
(1926–1977) The Morning of the Year
Heath, Egdon (1927)
Solomon’s Song (1933–1934)

Estimated Net Worth

The estimated net worth of Gustavus Theodore von Holst is unknown.