Please DONATE to help with maintenance and upkeep of the Wind Repertory Project!

Scherzo (Holst)

From Wind Repertory Project
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Gustav Holst

Gustav Holst (trans. Donald Patterson)

This article is a stub. If you can help add information to it,
please join the WRP and visit the FAQ (left sidebar) for information.

General Info

Year: 1933 / 2021
Duration: c. 5:35
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Orchestra
Publisher: U.S. Marine Band
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown


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


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Gustav Holst is one of England’s most revered and original composers. Although he is best known for his orchestral work The Planets, he composed works across a range of genres, including music for band and chorus, as well as operas. His interest in British folk song -- part of an ongoing revival in Victorian-era England -- resulted in his adapting many songs into original settings.

Holst began writing the first movement of his second symphony, a scherzo, in July of 1933. He completed the draft in August and, despite bouts of illness, succeeded in orchestrating the movement. Unfortunately, he never commenced work on the symphony’s subsequent movements and died in May of the following year. The Scherzo was first performed as a stand-alone work in 1935 by the BBC Symphony Orchestra. The conductor, Adrian Boult, suggested that it should have been performed twice in the concert: “It is fiendishly difficult to play and I imagine not too easy to listen to, and so I think a case for immediate repetition might be made.” A review in the Musical Times protested, “As it stands, it sounds too inconclusive, but it is characteristically angular, rather chilly in temperature and European rather than national in style … as if [Paul] Hindemith had taken a hand in a scherzo by [Ralph] Vaughan Williams.”

Thickly orchestrated and rhythmically complex, the Scherzo is indeed an achievement of the Holst’s late style. A vivacious opening tempo in 6/8 meter features cross-rhythms, syncopations, and unexpected accents, lending a chaotic edge to the music’s natural flow. A lyrical and stately middle section contrasts the ferocity of the opening and allows solo instruments to take the spotlight. The thematic material here is reminiscent of a folk song or hymn, only slightly off-kilter in its feel because of the uneven 5/4 meter. Undulating accompanimental figures begin gently and then intensify, leading back to a return of the quick 6/8 tempo of the opening. A final upward, defiant gesture ends the movement.

A highly trained trombonist, Holst featured wind instruments extensively in the original orchestral version of this piece. The Scherzo is thus particularly well suited to this new transcription for band by Marine Band Chief Arranger Master Gunnery Sgt. Donald Patterson, heard for the first time in concert.

- Program Note from U.S. Marine Band concert program, 26 August 2021


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

State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (Jason K. Fettig, conductor) - 26 August 2021 *Transcription Premiere Performance*

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

All Wind Music


None discovered thus far.