Gustav Theodore Holst
(21 September 1874 –- 25 May 1934) was an English composer (of Swedish
descent) of the late 19th to early 20th century. He was most notable for his work on The Planets Suite
, a composition that would go on to influence many of the composers and musicians of the 20th century.
The music of "I Vow To Thee, My Country" is derived from the section "Jupiter" of The Planets
, by the way, so you most certainly have heard of Holst's work if you're in Britain or other Commonwealth countries.
Tropes present in Holst's life and works:
- Dream-Crushing Handicap: He suffered from neuritis so had problems with his right hand, shattering his childhood dream of being a concert pianist.
- Ethereal Choir: "Neptune" from "The Planets" ends with a choir singing, suggesting the infinity of the universe.
- I Am Very British: Holst's music has a very typical British pomposity to it: Edgon Heath, St. Paul's Suite,...
- Ill Boy: From childhood, Holst had a nerve problem that restricted use of his right arm and made his dream of becoming a concert pianist impossible.
- Last Note Nightmare: Uranus: The Magician is mostly whimsical and bouncy bouncy, until the end, where the 4th to last note is a dissonant crash, followed by a softer echo, and an unsettling resolution. it's a near polar opposite fom the previous movement, Saturn: The Bringer of Old Age.
- Musical Pastiche: When composing several pieces for Star Wars, John Williams incorporated parts from The Planets such as "Venus" inspiring Leia's Theme as well as the using the main theme of "Jupiter" and the second part of "Mars" during the attack on the Death Star, and the beginning and end of "Mars" during the capture of the Blockade Runner and the Destruction of the Death Star respectively. Also the music where Luke is dragging Vader to the Shuttle Craft quotes the beginning of "Uranus."
- Orchestral Bombing: Mars: The Bringer Of War in The Planets.
- Patriotic Fervor: "Jupiter" from "The Planets" has a mid-section that Cecil Spring Rice later used as the melody for the patriotic hymn "I Vow to Thee My Country".
- Edgon Heath was based on the novels of Thomas Hardy, whom Holst particularly liked.
- Jupiter, Bringer Of Jollity is briefly quoted by Frank Zappa during Invocation & Ritual Dance Of The Young Pumpkin on Absolutely Free.
- Small Reference Pools: Better known for The Planets than anything else he ever composed.
- Standard Snippet: Mars, Jupiter and Neptune from The Planets are among the most plagiarized and quoted musical compositions of all time. Virtually every sciencefiction movie or battle movie has a score directly inspired by these movements.
- Time Marches On: The Planets was composed in 1915, before Pluto was named a planet in 1930. For decades people felt the absence of a musical movement for Pluto was unfortunate. That changed when in 2006 Pluto was declared to be a dwarf planet, from now on, making Holst's musical piece up to date again. Also, his musical rendition of the planets does not match what we now know to be the reality (in particular Venus being associated with peace when it's actually covered in storms of boiling acid). In fairness this was based mainly on the astrological/mythological meanings of the planets.
- Trope Maker: Almost single-handedly popularized the wind ensemble. Seriously. Your school band would not exist if it weren't for Holst.
- He did this particularly with First Suite in E-flat for Military Band.
- Uranus Is Showing: Uranus is part of The Planets.
- War Is Hell: Mars: Bringer of War is a dark and brooding opener of The Planets, evoking the militaristic marching associated with warfare. It was composed during World War One too.
- Winged Humanoid: Mercurius the Winged Messenger from The Planets.