Holst, Gustav


Holst, Gustav

A Moorside Suite, arranged for small orchestra by Phillip Brookes (first print)


Gustav Holst

A Moorside Suite
arranged for small orchestra by Phillip Brookes

(b. Cheltenham, 21 September 1874 – d. London, 25 May 1934)

Scherzo p.1
Nocturne p.18
March p.29

In 1928 Gustav Holst was invited to write the test piece for the National Brass Band Championships at the Crystal Palace. Brass bands were popular among the collieries and factories of industrial Britain and were well organized, with a series of national competitions. Both bands and local choirs provided what was often the only cultural pursuits for the working men (it was mainly men) of the industrial regions. The brass instruments used were cornets, saxhorns of several sizes, and trombones. The band movement developed a novel and idiosyncratic standardisation of music for the cornets and saxhorns, whereby they were all written for as transposing instruments in the treble clef – even the bass tubas! It meant, of course, that anyone who had learnt to play on one instrument could transfer to another type of instrument without having to re-learn the technique – something that was important in allowing for continuity of personnel. By such means players often became more literate in music than they were in their own language.

The bands themselves were usually funded and supported by the particular colliery or factory (which probably owned the instruments) though some were funded by local communities, and it is not surprising that by the end of the 19th century, performing in competition against other bands figured large in any band’s calendar. It became the cultural equivalent of football.

What often proved the band movement’s weakest feature was the music they played. Hymn-tunes, marches and novelty items (often with a soloist) were the staple fare of public performances, but as competitions grew, there was a growing feeling that selections from the classics and transcriptions of operatic pieces were no longer enough. Percy Fletcher, a recognized – if minor – ‘serious’ composer, had agreed to write a test piece in 1913 – Labour and Love (MPH score no. 1411). But no ‘front rank’ composer had yet been persuaded to write for brass band. But Holst was delighted by the invitation and thus became the first truly renowned composer to write for brass band.

The suite is in three movements, each of which needs sustained cantabile playing as well as agility. The beautiful Nocturne requires the full band to play in slow block chords as quietly as it can (ppp) for long stretches (it is a movement that recalls Venus from The Planets). The final March is typical of the style of the two wind band suites, but Holst’s greater maturity shows in the way the broad trio tune never ends – it grows as if it could carry on for ever.

Holst wrote to the editor of The British Bandsman (the ‘trade’ magazine of the brass band movement) after the National Championship finals at which the piece had been played on 29 September 1928. He had attended the Crystal Palace, sat through 18 performances of the work and had heard the members of Foden’s Motor Works Band proclaimed the winners: “Thank you for inviting me to write this year’s test piece … I thoroughly enjoyed doing so, and was both impressed and delighted with the performances … Last Saturday I listened to musicians conducted by musicians … Perhaps my greatest joy was in the flexibility of the rhythm of the best bands.”

Holst did arrange the suite for strings, though he never published it. He also began scoring it for military band (presumably as a companion to the the First Suite in Eb and the Second Suite in F of 1909 and 1911: MPH scores 1153 and 1184, also 1421) but he never completed it. Gordon Jacob made an arrangement for large orchestra in 1952, but I have used a more modest ensemble:

2 flutes (one doubling piccolo)
cor anglais
2 clarinets in A
2 bassoons
2 horns in F
2 trumpets in Bb (one doubling flugelhorn)
bass trombone
Something should be said about percussion. For many years, percussion was not allowed at the National Championships, despite composers writing for it. The published brass band score of A Moorside Suite has no percussion in the first two movements, and a minimal part in the third. But it seems that Holst’s first thoughts required more (certainly his earliest sketches do) and I have used these as cues to expend the third movement percussion part a little. The 1928 brass band percussion part will eventually become available from MPH as part of the brass band set, and it may, of course, be used with this edition. The timpani part is entirely my own.

I have transposed the score into the keys Holst used for his string orchestra arrangement.

Phillip Brookes, 2016

For performance material please contact Musikproduktion Höflich (www.musikmph.de), Munich.

Vorwort Deutsch  > HERE

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