Holst, Gustav

Alternative names
Birth 1874-09-21
Death 1934-05-25

Biographical notes:

Gustav Holst (1874-1934), composer and music teacher, was born in Cheltenham, and educated at the local grammar school and at the Royal College of Music. He taught at St Pauls Girls School, and composed many pieces, most notably The Planets. His daughter Imogen was educated at St Pauls and the Royal College of Music, and was among other appointments Director of Music at Dartington Hall, Devon. She wrote on a number of musical themes, but most significantly her father and Benjamin Britten, she being musical assistant to Britten for a number of years.

From the guide to the Holst Manuscript, 1910, 1910, (University of Exeter)

Epithet: composer

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000496.0x0002a2

English composer.

From the description of Autograph letters signed (8) and typewritten letter signed, dated : [London] July 30 [1927]-17 August [1928], to Mr. [Harry Harkness] Flagler, 1927 July 30. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270666413

From the description of Typewritten letter signed, dated : [London], 29 March 1927, to [Richard] Capell, 1927 Mar. 29. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270874481

English composer and teacher.

From the description of Letters, [1921?] Jan. 29, [1928?] Apr. 20, and 1929 Dec. 5, to [Frederick A.] Stock, [Chicago?] (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 34491662

Gustavus Theodore von Holst was born in 1874, the son of Adolph and Clara von Holst. He gained admission to the Royal College of Music in 1893 and joined the Carl Rosa Opera Company in 1898 as trombonist and rptiteur. After two years he joined the Scottish Orchestra (now Royal Scottish National Orchestra) in Glasgow, 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 his friend 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.

Holst's reputation as a composer 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 that he achieved genuine recognition. 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, his birthplace. In 1932 he was visiting lecturer in composition at Harvard, 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. He had married Isobel Harrison, a member of the Hammersmith Socialist Choir which he conducted from 1896, in 1901.

From the guide to the Letters from Gustav Holst, 30 Aug 1925-28 Jun 1926, (Royal Northern College of Music)


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  • Suites (Band)--Scores
  • Musicians, English
  • Chamber orchestra music, Arranged--Scores and parts
  • Band music--Piano scores
  • Choruses, Secular (Men's voices) with orchestra--Scores
  • Composers--Correspondence
  • Christmas music
  • Choruses, Secular (Men's voices) with orchestra--Vocal scores with piano
  • Orchestral music--Parts
  • Suites (Orchestra)--Parts
  • Choruses, Secular (Men's voices) with string orchestra--Vocal scores with piano
  • Harp--Orchestral excerpts
  • Octets (Bassoon, clarinet, horn, violins (2), viola, violoncello, double bass)--Scores and parts
  • Scherzos (Chamber orchestra), Arranged--Scores and parts
  • Sextets (Organ, baritone, trombone, trumpets (2), tuba)--Scores and parts
  • Band music--Scores
  • Carols--Instrumental settings
  • Choruses, Secular (Mixed voices, 4 parts) unaccompanied
  • Music


  • Composers


  • Hooton Roberts, Rotherham, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom (as recorded)
  • England (as recorded)
  • High Bradfield, West Riding of Yorkshire, United Kingdom (as recorded)
  • Czechoslovakia, Europe (as recorded)