Holst, Gustav(us Theodore von)
- Colin Matthews
(b Cheltenham, Sept 21, 1874; d London, May 25, 1934). English composer. His prominent position among 20th-century English composers owes a great deal to the immense popularity of his orchestral work The Planets. The only pieces to have achieved comparable success are on a much smaller scale, yet equally idiosyncratic. His wholly individual blend of Hindu philosophy and English folksong set him on a path far from the mainstream of European tradition, although his early works reveal a thorough grounding in conventional forms.
Holst’s great-grandfather Matthias (1769–1854) was born in Rīga, of German ancestry, and was a composer, pianist and teacher of the harp to the Imperial Russian court in St Petersburg. Not long after the birth of his first child, Gustavus Valentine, in 1799, Matthias fled to England – apparently as a political exile – where he built up a reputation in London as a teacher and composer of fashionable but insignificant salon pieces. His second son Theodor was born in ...