Somerset Rhapsody, A

From Wind Repertory Project
Gustav Holst

Gustav Holst (trans. Clare Grundman)

This work bears the designation Opus 21.

General Info

Year: 1906 / 1927 / 1980
Duration: c. 9:30
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Orchestra
Publisher: Boosey & Hawkes, Inc.
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $90.00   |   Score Only (print) - $12.50


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II (4 players suggested)
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Cornet I-II-III
B-flat Trumpet I-II
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
String Bass
Percussion (4-5 players), including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Glockenspiel
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Vibraphone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

A Somerset Rhapsody, Op. 21, was composed in 1906, and was dedicated to Cecil Sharp, the renowned collector of English folksong music. It began as a work called A New Selection of Songs of Somerset, making use of songs from the collections of Sharp. Originally containing ten folk tunes, Holst rewrote the work to include only four: The Sheep-Shearing Song (also known as It’s a Rosebud in June), invokes idyllic pastoral settings and is played at the beginning by the oboe d’amore (English Horn in the wind band version). High Germany, is a song about marching off to war, and is also used by Holst’s colleague, Ralph Vaughan Williams, in his own Folk Song Suite. True Love’s Farewell, is a song about lovers saying goodbye, and is sometimes also known as Ten Thousand Miles. The final tune used is The Cuckoo. Curiously, The Cuckoo does not seem to be recognised as one of the folk tunes used in this piece...the program note in the transcription refers only to the three other folk melodies, and many program notes omit any reference to The Cuckoo whatsoever.

This new version was premiered at Queens Hall by conductor Edward Mason in April of 1910. Holst believed this performance to be the first real success of his career. It was received favourably by the critics of the day, with the Daily Telegraph stating “no more distinguished a piece has issued from a British pen for many a day.” The Morning Post offered “This is the work for which lovers of folk song have been waiting [...] the best disquisition on a folk-song that has been issued, and its successors will be awaited with interest.” His own daughter, however, kept a more reserved view of the work, stating that the Rhapsody was “a mixture of good and bad writing [...] though it has moments of great beauty.” The transcription for winds was completed by Clare Grundman in 1980. Though not a programmatic work, the composer once divulged to a colleague that the work told a story:

"Into a quiet country scene comes the sound of approaching soldiers. A youth who is courting a girl is persuaded to enlist and go to war. The soldiers march into the distance and the pastoral quietness returns. The girl is left alone.”

- Program Note by Nikk Pilato


(Needed - please join the WRP if you can help.)

State Ratings

  • Florida: V
  • Georgia: V
  • Kansas: V
  • Louisiana: IV
  • Maryland: V
  • South Carolina: V
  • Virginia: V


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • West Chester (Penn.) University Wind Ensemble (Andrew Yozviak, conductor) - 1 November 2020
  • Eastman School of Music (Rochester, N.Y.) Wind Orchestra (Mark Scatterday, conductor) – 18 October 2019
  • Massachusetts Youth Wind Ensemble (Boston) (Michael Mucci, conductor)– 18 December 2018
  • McGill University (Montreal, Que.) Wind Orchestra (Alain Cazes, conductor) – 2 November 2018
  • Colorado (Denver) Wind Ensemble (David Kish, conductor) – 7 April 2018
  • Henderson State University (Arkadelphia, Ark.) Wind Ensemble (Steven M. Knight, conductor) -29 November 2016
  • Lexington (Mass.) Bicentennial Band (Jeffrey Leonard, conductor) – 31 January 2016
  • California State University Symphonic Band (Nikk Pilato, conductor) - 15 March 2012

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

All Wind Music