St Paul's Suite

Gustav Holst

St Paul's Suite

H118, Op. 29/2

About this work

Gustav Holst spent a good portion of his musical life dealing with students and other non-professional musicians. In 1903 he succeeded his good friend Ralph Vaughan Williams as the director of the school orchestra at James Allen's Girls' School in London. Two years later he became musical director at the St. Paul's Girls' School, a post he kept for the rest of his life. Along with his teaching, Holst continued to compose in his spare time, and around 1907, began to explore English and Scottish folk music. Those folk tunes started making their way into compositions like the St. Paul's Suite for string orchestra, written in 1912-13 for his students at the St. Paul's School.

The suite opens with a slightly dark Jig, based on a memorably rustic tune. The ostinato second movement features a tender melody and an accompaniment spiced with pizzicati. A passionate modal theme, announced by the full string body and later taken up by a quiet solo violin, dominates the third-movement Intermezzo. The rousing Finale takes up the folk tune "The Dargason" (which Holst also employs in the finale of his Second Suite for military band), repeating it 30 times with harmonic and rhythmic variations. Towards the end of the movement the famous tune "Greensleeves" makes an appearance as a countermelody.