First Suite in E-flat for Military Band (ed Fennell)

From Wind Repertory Project
Gustav Holst

Gustav Holst (arr. Frederick Fennell)

This work bears the designation Opus 28, No. 1.

General Info

Year: 1909 / 2006
Duration: c. 11:00
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Ludwig Masters Publications
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $175.00   |   Score Only (print) - $50.00


1. Chaconne - 4:35
2. Intermezzo - 2:55
3. March - 3:00


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III-IV
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Cornet I-II-III-IV
B-flat Trumpet I-II
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
B-flat Baritone Horn
String Bass
Percussion, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Field Drum
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tambourine
  • Triangle


None discovered thus far.

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.

- Program Note by Esmail Khalili

Gustav Holst’s First Suite in E-flat for Military Band occupies a legendary position in the wind band repertory and can be seen, in retrospect, as one of the earliest examples of the modern wind band instrumentation still frequently performed today. Its influence is so significant that several composers have made quotation or allusion to it as a source of inspiration to their own works.

Holst began his work with Chaconne, a traditional Baroque form that sets a series of variations over a ground bass theme. That eight-measure theme is stated at the outset in tubas and euphoniums and, in all, fifteen variations are presented in quick succession. The three pitches that begin the work -- E-flat, F, and B-flat, ascending -- serve as the generating cell for the entire work, as the primary theme of each movement begins in exactly the same manner. Holst also duplicated the intervallic content of these three pitches, but descended, for several melodic statements (a compositional trick not dissimilar to the inversion process employed by the later serialist movement, which included such composers as Schoenberg and Webern). These inverted melodies contrast the optimism and bright energy of the rest of the work, typically introducing a sense of melancholy or shocking surprise. The second half of the Chaconne, for instance, presents a somber inversion of the ground bass that eventually emerges from its gloom into the exuberant final variations.

The Intermezzo, which follows, is a quirky rhythmic frenzy that contrasts everything that has preceded it. This movement opens in C minor, and starts and stops with abrupt transitions throughout its primary theme group. The contrasting midsection is introduced with a mournful melody, stated in F Dorian by the clarinet before being taken up by much of the ensemble. At the movement’s conclusion, the two sections are woven together, the motives laid together in complementary fashion in an optimistic C Major.

The March that follows immediately begins shockingly, with a furious trill in the woodwinds articulated by aggressive statements by brass and percussion. This sets up the lighthearted and humorous mood for the final movement, which eventually does take up the more reserved and traditional regal mood of a British march and is simply interrupted from time to time by an uncouth accent or thunderous bass drum note. The coda of the work makes brief mention of elements from both the Chaconne and Intermezzo before closing joyfully.

- Program Note by Jacob Wallace for the Baylor Wind Ensemble concert program, 19 December 2014

For a work that is such a staple of the concert band repertoire, there is surprisingly little information about the origins of Gustav Holst’s First Suite in E-flat. In the notebook in which he kept a record of his compositions from 1895 until his death, Holst entered the “1st Suite for Military Band Op. 28A” on the page for 1909. Not until 1920 is any record found of a performance, nor is there any mention of the ensemble for which the work was composed. Although its beginnings may have been somewhat inauspicious, the work is a masterpiece of wind writing, sounding as fresh and original today as the day it was written.

The three-movement work begins with the Chaconne in which the melody is introduced by the low brass. The variations build slowly to the majestic finale. The Intermezzo, marked vivace, is lighter and highlights Holst’s skill in writing for woodwinds. In contrast to the Chaconne, this movement ends quietly. The piece ends with the March, a movement in ABA form that weaves together two contrasting melodies as it moves toward a powerful conclusion.

- Program Note from U.S. Marine Band concert program, 24 July 2016


State Ratings

  • Arkansas: V (Complete)
  • Louisiana: III-IV-V
  • North Carolina: VI
  • Texas: III. (mvt 1)
  • Texas: IV-V. Complete


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Kaimuki Middle School (Kaimuki, HI) Symphonic Winds (Susan Ochi-Onishi, conductor) - 8 April 2023
  • United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (Darren Lin, conductor) - 2 June 2022
  • Lake High School (Uniontown/Hartville, Ohio) Symphonic Winds (Jared Cooey, conductor) – 14 February 2022
  • Eastman School of Music (Rochester, N.Y.) Wind Ensemble (Lindsay Bronnenkant, conductor) - 5 May 2021
  • United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (Ryan Nowlin, conductor) – 2 February 2020
  • William & Mary (Williamsburg, Va.) Wind Ensemble (Richard Marcus, conductor) - 28 April 2018
  • The United States Coast Guard Band (New London, Conn.) (H. Robert Reynolds, conductor) - 22 December 2017 (2017 Midwest Clinic)
  • Lee University (Cleveland, Tenn.) Wind Ensemble (David Holsinger, conductor) – 3 February 2017
  • Gold Coast Wind Ensemble (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) (Clinton H. Dawley, conductor) – 20 November 2016
  • Ohlone Community Band (Fremont, Calif.) (Tony Clements, conductor) – 2 November 2016
  • Eastman School of Music (Rochester, N.Y.) Wind Ensemble and Wind Ensemble (Mark Scatterday, conductor) – 6 October 2016
  • United State Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (Ryan J. Nowlin, conductor) - 28 July 2016
  • Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra (Tatsuya Shimono, conductor) – 2012
  • Lynn Conservatory of Music (Boca Raton, Fla.) Wind Ensemble (Kenneth Amis, conductor) – 14 January 2012
  • Dallas (Tx.) Wind Symphony (Jerry Junkin, conductor) – 21 December 2006 (2006 Midwest Clinic)

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

All Wind Music


  • Holst, G.; Fennell, F. (2005). First Suite in Eb for Military Band [score]. Ludwig Music Pub.: Grafton, Ohio.