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First Suite in E-flat

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Gustav Holst

Gustav Holst (ed. Matthews)

General Info

Year: 1909 / 1984
Duration: c. 10:30
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Boosey & Hawkes, Inc.
Cost: Score and Parts - $115.00   |   Score Only - $15.50


1. Chaconne - 4:00
2. Intermezzo - 3:00
3. March - 3:05


Full Score
Oboe I-II (both parts optional)
Bassoon I-II (second part is optional)
Eb Soprano Clarinet I-II (second part is optional)
Bb Soprano Clarinet (Solo)
Bb Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
Bb Bass Clarinet
Alto Saxophone
Tenor Saxophone
Baritone Saxophone
Bass Saxophone
Cornet (in Bb) Solo
Cornet (in Bb) I-II
Trumpet (in Bb) I-II (both parts optional)
Horn in F I-II-III-IV (third and fourth part optional)
Trombone I-II-III (second part optional)
String Bass (optional)
Timpani (optional)
Percussion (2-3 players), including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Cymbals (crash and suspended)
  • Side Drum
  • Tambourine
  • Triangle


Colin Matthews edition (Boosey & Hawkes, 1984) - please note, many of these errors have been corrected in later printings of this work

Movement I

  • Flute/Piccolo, m. 41 (Letter B) - last 16th note of beat two should be an F, not a G (score is correct)
  • Bass Clarinet, m. 111 (3 bars before Letter F) - 4th note should be an F, not an E (score is correct)
  • Bass Saxophone, m. 55 (2 bars before Letter C) - last 8th note is a G, not an E (both score and part are incorrect)
  • Horn in F I, m. 57 - Rehearsal Letter C should be here (NOT 14 measures later, score is correct)
  • Horn in F I, m. 97 - Rehearsal Letter D should be here (NOT 1 measure later, score is correct)
  • Trombone I, m. m. 26 (2 bars after Letter A) - add "solo" to part.
  • Trombone I, m. 31 (7 bars after Letter A) - add "tutti" to part.
  • Percussion, m. 114 - Rehearsal Letter F/Maestoso should be here (NOT 1 measure later, score is correct)
  • Percussion, m. 131 (last measure) - Cymbal dynamic should be fff, not ff (score is correct)

Movement II

  • Oboe I/II, m. 103 (6 bars before Letter E) - add slur from from half note to beat one in upper part (both score and part are incorrect)
  • E-flat Soprano Clarinet, m. 92 (10 bars after Letter D) - in upper part, last 2 8th notes are G-F, not F-E
  • B-flat Clarinet II, m. 129 (7 bars after Letter F) - add "tutti" on beat 4
  • B-flat Clarinet II, m. 141 (second to last bar) - first note of beat 3 is a D, not an E
  • Bass Clarinet, m. 109 (Letter E) - 16th flag missing on 2nd note.
  • Bassoon I-II, m. 1 - Time signature should be 2/4, not 3/4 (score is correct)
  • Euphonium, m. 103 (6 bars before Letter E) - last 8th note is F, not G (note - same error exists in treble clef part)
  • String Bass, m. 142 (last measure) - add "pizz."
  • Percussion, m. 105 and 108 - add half note triangle part in each measure

Movement III

  • Trumpet I, m. 1 - second note is E, not C
  • Horn III, m. 105-106 (9/10 bars after Letter C) - A-naturals, not A-flats
  • Euphonium, m. 118 (5 bars before Letter D) - last note is G, first line, not D (note - same error exists in treble clef part)
  • Basses, m. 72 (Letter B) - Letter B should be one measure earlier at m. 71
  • Basses, m. 154 - second note is B-natural, not B-flat (both octaves)

Program Notes

2009 marks the 100th anniversary of the First Suite in E-flat by Gustav Holst, now considered one of the masterworks and cornerstones of the band literature. Although completed in 1909, the suite didn't receive its official premiere until 11 years later on June 23rd, 1920, by an ensemble of 165 musicians at the Royal Military School of Music at Kneller Hall. However, the work was originally conceived to be performed by ensembles significantly smaller than the one at Kneller Hall. During this time period there was no standardized instrumentation among the hundreds of British military bands of the day, and as a result no significant literature had been previously written for the band medium; most British bands up to then performed arrangements of popular orchestral pieces. In order to ensure the suite would be accessible to as many bands as possible, Holst ingeniously scored the work so that it could be played by a minimum of 19 musicians, with 16 additional parts that could be added or removed without compromising the integrity of the work.

There are three movements in the suite: Chaconne, Intermezzo, and March. Holst writes, “As each movement is founded on the same phrase, it is requested that the suite be played right through without a break.” Indeed, the first three notes of the Chaconne are Eb, F and C, and the first three notes of the melody when it first appears in the Intermezzo are Eb, F, and C. In the third movement, March, Holst inverts the motive: The first note heard in the brilliant opening brass medley is an Eb, but instead of rising, it descends to a D, and then a G; the exact opposite of the first two movements.

The Chaconne begins with a ground bass reminiscent of those written by Henry Purcell or William Byrd. It is performed by tuba, euphonium and string bass and is repeated throughout the ensemble sixteen full times as varying instrumental textures and variations of the theme are layered within it. Following a delicately scored chamber setting of the theme, the music steadily builds to a brilliant Eb Major chord that concludes the movement.

The Intermezzo is light and brisk and features soloistic passages for the cornet, oboe and clarinet. Holst prominently displays the agility and sensitivity of the wind band through transparent textures and passages where the melody and accompaniment are woven into a variety of instrumental settings.

The March begins suddenly. It consists of two themes, the first of which, performed by brass choir and percussion, is a march light in character. The second theme is dominated by the woodwinds and is composed of a long, lyrical line reminiscent of the original Chaconne melody. The movement concludes with both themes intertwining as the band crescendos to a climax.

Gustav Holst, of Scandinavian ancestry on his father's side, was born in the English spa town of Cheltenham in 1874 and studied music at the Royal College in London. A formidable trombonist, he spent time performing with the Scottish Symphony and various seaside bands. He later became director of music at St. Paul's Girls' School, retaining this connection until the end of his life. Holst wrote a number of works for the theatre, their subjects reflecting his varied interests, from Hindu mythology to Shakespeare and the medieval world of the Wandering Scholar. He also composed a considerable amount of choral music, accompanied and unaccompanied, including arrangements of folk songs, and a smaller number of solo songs. His most famous instrumental work is The Planets, but he is also fondly remembered for his St. Paul’s Suite for string orchestra, the two suites for military band, and Hammersmith, based on the district of London bearing the works name.

Program Note by Esmail Khalili

Commercial Discography

State Ratings

  • Florida: V --- (The Florida Bandmasters Association denotes this as "significant literature.")
  • Maryland: V
  • Minnesota - Category I
  • Iowa: IV
  • South Carolina: VI
  • Texas:
    • Grade III: Movement 1 only
    • Grade IV: Two movements
    • Grade V: Complete Suite
  • Virginia:
    • Grade V: Two movements
    • Grade VI: Complete Suite
  • North Carolina: VI
  • Louisiana:
    • Grade III: Movement 1 only
    • Grade IV: Two movements
    • Grade V: Complete Suite
  • Oklahoma: V
  • New York:
    • Grade V: Two movements
    • Grade VI: Complete Suite
  • Georgia:
    • Grade V: Two movements
    • Grade VI: Complete Suite


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Baylor University (Waco, Tex.) Wind Ensemble (H. Robert Reynolds, conductor) - 19 December 2014 (2014 Midwest Clinic)
  • University of Southern California Thornton Wind Ensemble (H. Robert Reynolds, conductor) - 2 November 2014
  • San Jose Metropolitan Band (Gregory Bergantz, conductor) - 19 October 2014
  • California State University, Fullerton, Wind Symphony (Bill Fritz, conductor) - 4 May 2014
  • Cuesta Wind Ensemble (Jennifer Martin, conductor) - 4 May 2014
  • Emory University Wind Ensemble (Nikk Pilato, conductor) - 25 April 2014
  • Reedley High School (Calif.) Symphonic Band (Daniel Paulsen, conductor) - 21 March 2014 (35th Sutherland Wind Festival, Fresno, Calif.)
  • California Polytechnic University Wind Orchestra (Christopher Woodruff, conductor) - 9 March 2014
  • San Francisco Wind Ensemble (Martin H. Seggelke, conductor) - 27 October 2012
  • High School Symphonic Band [Interlochen, Mich.] (Frederick Fennell, conductor) - 13 July 1963

Works for Winds by this Composer