Gustav Holst

Havergal Brian

Selected and annotated by Malcolm MacDonald

I am distressed at the news of the death of Gustav Holst [on 25 May 1934]. My personal acquaintance with him was brief, but I venture to think that we had many mutual sympathies years ago, when I was living in the North of England. I had a letter from him, and with it came a number of partsongs, which were settings of words from the Hindu Rig Veda, for which reason I found it difficult to secure the interest of choral conductors. At the festival of 1913, given at Birmingham Town Hall by the ISM and the Musical League, both Holst and I had an orchestral work in the programme; and it was at the sectional rehearsal of the brass and woodwind of my Doctor Merryheart that we met. He was frankly interested in what I termed a comedy overture, but he remained shy and reserved. I saw him again a few years ago at the school at Brook Green where he was music-master.

Holst was a great personality, because he attained fame by following an entirely individual and solitary path. His orchestral suites, Beni Mora and The planets, his choral work, Hymn of Jesus, and his opera The Boar’s Head are unlike any other European music. He was decidedly a great fertiliser in expressing continuously his abiding faith in English music and also for his passion for the music of Henry Purcell. Greater honours were doubtless in store for Gustav Holst: and had his span but equalled that of Elgar who will say that equal fame would not have been his?

On the other hand, by La main gauche

Musical opinion, June 1934, p. 766