Sunday, May 28, 2006

Gustav Holst Dies - May 25, 1934

Gustav Theodor Holst (composer of one of my favorite classical pieces) died in London, England May 25, 1934. He was born in Cheltenham, England September 21, 1874 of Swedish and Irish parents. His father was an accomplished pianist who taught and was organist for All Saints' Church in Pittsville, England. He was bound and determined that his son become a pianist as well, but Holst developed neuritis in his hands, making playing the piano difficult. He did it anyway and became organist at Wick Rissington (Cotswalds) in 1893.

Composing interested him and although his problems playing piano prevented him from getting scholarships at music colleges, his father was impressed enough by his first composition to borrow the money to send him to the Royal College of Music. At school his neuritis and eyesight bcame worse, thanks to a case of malnutrition due to his frugality and vegetarian lifestyle. He finally gave up the piano and started playing the trombone instead.

He married a soprano named Isobel Harrison in 1901 and was appointed Director of Music at St. Paul's Girls School in Hammersmith, London in 1905. Before and during this time he had been composing. He was becoming heavily influenced by Hindu philosophy and the poetry of Walt Whitman. His composition, Sita, (finished in 1906) is based on the Hindu epic Ramayana.

The Planets has become Holst's most famous composition (the favorite I mentioned earlier - I own two different recordings of it!). It was published in 1916 to wide acclaim. It was the most successful of any of his compositions. One other, The Hymn of Jesus (1917), was nearly as popular, but after his opera, The Perfect Fool, was published 1923, his critical successes began to wane.

His death followed a stomach operation on May 23rd. The operation was to fix ulcers he had developed and was a success, but his heart couldn't take the strain. He died two days later. His ashes were interred at the Cathedral at Chichester.

The Gustav Holst Website - there was so much more in the bio I couldn't mention
Holst Birthplace Museum
Gustav Holst - Wikipedia
Holst: The Planets - Wikipedia

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