Gustav Holst

Gustav Holst

1874 - 1934



Gustavus Theodore von Holst was a music composer and teacher. He was born in Cheltenham, England on 21st September 1874. He mastered in different styles of music including choral, orchestral and chamber music. However his main area of expertise was the classical music. He fascinated his listeners by his melodic simplicity of the English music in the 20th century.

Gustav Holst is very well known for his magnificent orchestral composition, The Planets. He wrote the masterpiece in the years of World War I. The war years proved to be very fertile for the English composer as he also wrote another music composition, The Hymn of Jesus. After the war Gustav started to do research work for the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) at their educational facilities.

His parents, Adolph von Holst and Clara Cox, too were related to the world of music. His father was a renowned pianist and his mother used to be Adolph’s student before they were married. Unfortunately Clara died after the birth of their second child in February 1882. Gustav was only eight at that time.

Gustav was much neglected in his childhood. He was debile, had a weak sight and chest and suffered from neuritis. His hands used to quiver while playing piano or any other instrument. It was really hard for him to practice piano for long. It was the main reason he couldn’t get into any good musical schools in England. However he showed the world that by continued and determined efforts all can be achieved whatsoever the physical disabilities or obstacles in the path.

Gustav got his first official job at the age of seventeen. He was appointed to play organ and act as a choirmaster at Wyck Rissington. He gave his first official performance with his father at a concert where he played the role of the pianist. The audience of that show called him Gustav which he opted instead of his original name “Gustavus”.

In 1893, Gustav entered the Royal College of Music (RMC) but couldn’t get scholarship so he had to borrow money from his father. He left RMC in 1898 and joined the Carl Rosa Opera Company as their coach and rehearsal pianist. In 1900 he composed a symphony which was premiered in 1902 and was a great success. Meanwhile he married Emily Harrison in 1901.

After marriage Gustav turned towards teaching and took a job at a school in South London. The very next year he took a job as a Director of Music at St Paul’s Girls’ School which he kept until his death. In 1914, he wrote his famous composition, The Planets. The composition was greatly appreciated by the music world and he became more popular than ever although he didn’t welcome the fame so greatly and preferred to be left in peace.

Gustav Holst’s compositions include First Suite in E-flat for Military Band, Second Suite in F for Military Band, I vow to thee, My Country, St. Paul’s Suite, In the Bleak Midwinter, A Choral Fantasia, Two Eastern Pictures, The Wandering Scholar, First Choral Symphony, Ave Maria, A Moorside Suite, In Youth is Pleasure, The Magician and Hammersmith among others. All his compositions were highly appreciated and made him one of the greatest composers of England.

Gustav suffered from a duodenal ulcer. Many efforts were made to diagnose his illness but all went in vain and he died in 1934 at the age of 59 after a failed surgery. A decent funeral was arranged for Gustav at the Chichester Cathedral where his own composed music was played by Vaughan Williams.