First Suite for Band

By Gustav Holst
Composed in 1909

Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was active as a composer and teacher in the first part of the 20th century. He played a number of instruments, including piano, violin and trombone, and is best known for his large-scale orchestral work, “The Planets.”

Holst composed many other works which were emblematic of early 20th-century British music – including a number of pieces for band which have become staples in the concert band repertoire.

He wrote the First Suite in E-Flat Major in 1909. It is a three-movement work based on the musical theme which opens the first movement, the “Chaconne” – itself a throwback to a slow triple-meter dance from the 17th-18th century. The opening 8-bar low brass melody is repeated 15 times, with variations in instrumental combinations, mood, and tonality. The following Intermezzo is a lively variation on the opening melody, but completely different in feel – reminiscent of an English folk song.

      March
The closing March, whose second theme is also based on the “chaconne” theme, has a distinct “military” air about it. Instrumental ruffles and flourishes, and multiple interwoven melodies, lead in the end to a grand climax.