Gustav Holst | Compositions, The Music of Holst

(1933) Brook Green Suite

- Prelude- Air- Dance

This piece is published by Curwen.

The Brook Green Suite for strings was written in 1933 during Holst's stay in the hospital (where he was to die in May 1934). It was written for his pupils, the junior orchestra at St Paul's Girls School; He wanted to write a piece in a contemporary mature style that was easy enough for his pupils to perform, he felt they deserved better than simple orchestrations from keyboard originals or 'watered down' pieces that simply went 'I-IV-V-V/V-V-I' aimed at younger players. It was probably named after Brook Green because that was the location of his wedding to his wife, Isobel, in 1901. it could have also been named after the Brook because of it' proximity to the school.

The "Prelude" is based on the descending C major scale; in fact the cellos cover it in two octaves! The "Air" sounds as if it was based on English folk song, but most likely it was not; Holst had become so acquainted with folk song during his life that a lot of his created melodies were very similar to them (take for instance the choral piece, This Have I Done For My True Love, which audience members thought was a folk song arrangement when in actuality the melody was Holst's own.) The structure of the "Air" is reminiscent of the counterpoint of The Lyric Movement, full of enharmonic relations and somewhat austere. This is a trait of most of his later works. The "Dance" is based on a melody heard while he was in Sicily.

Originally, the piece contained a movement "Gavotte," but this movement was withdrawn after the first performance of the Brook Green Suite in March of 1934 at an informal school concert by the SPGS junior orchestra. This was the last concert that Holst attended.