St. Pauls Suite

St. Pauls Suite


Click the links below to see and hear the movements in the Suite.

1. Jig
2. Ostinato
3. Intermezzo
4. Finale (The Dargason)

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Best known for his extraordinary orchestral suite The Planets, British composer Gustav Holst composed an impressive opus of high quality works ranging from choral pieces to suites for military band. His Romantic writing style drew on many influences, but his later music increasingly gravitated to folk song. His life’s work, however, was teaching music whereas composing occurred in his spare time.  One of his longest held posts was at the St. Paul’s School for Girls in Hammersmith, England and his utterly charming St. Paul’s Suite was written between 1912 and 1913 for his student orchestra there. In 1913, the new music wing of St. Paul’s was opened and he was given a large, soundproof room for his work. On weekdays he would teach in it, but on Sundays and holidays he spent hours composing there. The first piece he completed in this room was St. Paul’s Suite for the school string orchestra. The four movements of this short and straightforward work provide insight into Holst’s development as a composer and reveal several of the influences most important to him. The first and last movements, Jig and Dargason illustrate the composer’s fascination with British folk music. The second movement, Ostinato, demonstrates his interest in clever musical devices that facilitate the development of material. The third movement, Intermezzo, is undoubtedly the most interesting of this suite, and it illustrates two characteristics of the mature Holst. The first of these is his lifelong interest in the music and religion of the Far East, an influence that is vividly evoked by the melody. The second characteristic is his penchant for combining seemingly unrelated and disparate styles of music. In the Intermezzo the composer is still experimenting with this technique, juxtaposing the mystical melody with energetic interludes that are evocative of a British barn dance.

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Robert Rainford


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