First Suite in E-flat
Gustav Holst (edited by Colin Matthews)
This work bears the subtitle "Op. 28, No. 1."
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
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)
Percussion (2-3 players), including:
- Bass Drum
- Cymbals (crash and suspended)
- Side Drum
Colin Matthews edition (Boosey & Hawkes, c1984)
1st & 2nd Bassoon, mvt. 1, letter C, meas. 3: add half rest
1st & 2nd Bassoon, mvt. 2, meas. 1: meter signature 3/4 should read 2/4
1st Horn in F, mvt. 1, letter B, meas. 17: reh. C should be here (not 14 meas. later)
1st Horn in F, mvt. 1, letter D, meas. 17: reh. E should be here (not 1 meas. later)
Basses, mvt. 3, letter A, meas. 35: reh. B should be here (not 1 meas. later)
Basses, mvt. 3, letter C, meas. 27: reh. D should be here (not 1 meas. earlier)
Percussion, mvt. 1, 18 meas. before end of mvt.: reh. F & “Maestoso” should be here (not 1 meas. later)
Percussion, mvt. 2, meas. 105 and 108: triangle part is missing ("There should be a written half note in each measure. These notes are clearly notated in the original manuscript and are notated in the 1948 published score.")
2009 marks the 100th anniversary of the First Suite in Eb 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
- Florida: V --- (The Florida Bandmasters Association denotes this as "significant literature.")
- Maryland: V
- Iowa: IV
- South Carolina: VI
- Grade III: Movement 1 only
- Grade IV: Two movements
- Grade V: Complete Suite
- Grade V: Two movements
- Grade VI: Complete Suite
To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project
- Los Angeles Pierce Symphonic Winds (Stephen Piazza, conductor) - 21 October 2012
- Category 5 Wind Ensemble, Inc. (Dan Sitomer, conductor) - 22 September 2012
- Indianapolis Symphonic Band (David Shurger, guest conductor) - 1 May 2012
- University of California, Santa Barbara, Wind Ensemble (Paul Bambach, conductor) - 3 March 2011
- California Poly San Luis Obispo Wind Ensemble (Andrew McMahan, conductor) - 20 November 2010
- North Shore Honor Band (Robert Rumbelow, conductor) - 16 January 2010
- Indiana Wind Symphony (Charles P. Conrad, conductor) - 20 January 2007 (IMEA Convention)
- Butler University Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble (Robert Grechesky, conductor) - 2 October 2005
- High School Symphonic Band [Interlochen, Mich.] (Frederick Fennell, conductor) - 13 July 1963
Additional Works for Winds by this Composer
- Chorale from Jupiter (arranged by James Curnow)
- First Suite in E-flat (1909)
- Hammersmith: Prelude and Scherzo (1930)
- Jupiter from "The Planets" (Holst's own transcription)
- Marching Song (1906 - Holst's own transcription)
- Mars from "The Planets" (Holst's own transcription)
- Moorside March (arranged by Gordon Jacob)
- The Planets (transcribed by Inagaki)
- The Planets (transcribed by Patterson)
- Second Suite in F (1911)
- Somerset Rhapsody (transcribed by Clare Grundman)
- Songs of the West (arranged by James Curnow)
- Score, parts, and recording available at the International Music Score Library Project
- Blocker, L., Cramer, R., Corporon, E. ,Lautzenheiser, T., Lisk, E., & Miles, R. (1996). Teaching music through performance in band (Volume One). Chicago, IL: Gia Publications.
- Helfter, Paul. First Suite in Eb Intermezzo Flow Chart
- Holst, Imogen. (1938). Gustav Holst: A Biography. London: Oxford University Press.
- Gustav Holst - Official Website
- Khalili, Esmail. Gustav Holst’s Suite in E-flat, Op. 28a: A Comparative Analysis of the Original Manuscript and Later Editions