Second Suite in F by Gustav Holst
Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was a British composer and teacher. After studying composition at London’s Royal College of Music, he spent the early part of his career playing trombone in an opera orchestra. It was not until the early 1900s that his career as a composer began to take off. Around this same time he acquired positions at both St. Paul’s Girls’ School and Morley College that he would hold until retirement, despite his rising star as a composer. His music was influenced by his interest in English folk songs and Hindu mysticism, late-Romantic era composers like Strauss and Delius, and avant-garde composers of his time like Stravinsky and Schoenberg. He is perhaps best known for composing The Planets, a massive orchestral suite that depicts the astrological character of each known planet. His works for wind band (two suites and a tone poem, Hammersmith) are foundational to the modern wind literature.
The Second Suite in F was written in 1911, but not performed until 1922. Each of its four movements uses one or more folk songs as its melodic material, best outlined by the Philharmonic Winds:
For those interested in singing along with some Holst, many of the folk songs used in the Second Suite have their lyrics published on the internet:
From the “March”: “Morris Dance” is an instrumental dance; “Swansea Town” starts with the euphonium solo; “Claudy Banks” is the 6/8 section. That link leaves out the chorus, which you can find in Bob Garofalo’s great resource book, Folk Songs and Dances in Second Suite, as well as via his website.
“Song without Words” is actually “I Love My Love”.
“Song of the Blacksmith” lyrics can be found on Wikipedia.
“Fantasia on the Dargason”: The Dargason itself is an instrumental dance tune, related to popular melodies like “The Irish Washerwoman”. This movement also includes “Greensleeves”, usually a sad-sounding song, as a rather joyous interlude and a powerful climax.
Gustavholst.info – a major web resource for information on the composer.
Second Suite in F, Movement I: March
Second Suite in F, Movement II: Song without Words
Second Suite in F, Movement III: Song of the Blacksmith
Second Suite in F, Movement IV: Fantasia on the Dargason
Holst enjoyed arranging movements from the Second Suite into other classical music media:
Holst largely repeated this movement in his St. Paul’s Suite for orchestra:
Holst also wrote a chorale version of the “Song of the Blacksmith”:
There is also a choral version of “Song without Words”, titled “I Love My Love”: