Highly Recommended: Gustav Holst – St. Paul’s Suite

By Sam.

Gustav Holst was an English composer most famous for his orchestral suite, The Planets. Which leads me to believe he would have loved Star Trek.

His second most popular composition is a piece he wrote for the girl’s school where he was acting Director of Music. Written in 1912, “St. Paul’s Suite” is a surprisingly modern-sounding composition, at least to my very unknowledgable ears. I originally heard on my local public radio’s classical station–the station I turn to if I don’t have my iPod and can’t find anything on the radio (which is often)–and I immediately turned it up. It’s a great composition to drive to, windows down on a sunny day.

After the jump: a full write-up of the suite, as well as a full stream and download of each section.

The suite is broken into 4 parts:

  1. The suite kicks off with a wonderful “Jig” that Klaus Badelt had to have listened to a lot when he composed the score for Pirates of the Carribbean. The jig’s one of the most immediately gratifying songs I’ve ever heard from classical music from my musically ignorant perspective.
  2. After the jig is the “Osinato,” which sounds much more typically classical, though the melody is surprisingly memorable. It sounds like the perfect track for a houty-touty party or dinner party. It’s brief but fairly effective.
  3. The “Intermezzo” of the suite starts slow, with quiet plucked strings and a single melody line played on violin. After about a minute and twenty seconds, the song picks up into a giant march. While this part is brief, it’s one of my favorite of the suite.
  4. The “Finale,” called “The Dargason” is one of those pieces you swear you’ve heard before. Well, at least it was for me. The opening line that’s carried throughout is surprisingly catchy and very memorable, it helps that its incredibly reminiscent of boyhood adventures. The piece builds on that line throughout, augmenting it by alternating it between different instruments and playing around with the counter-melodies and the like.

In all, after only a few listens, “St. Paul’s Suite” has quickly become one of my favorite orchestral pieces. It’s rousing and unpretentious and accessible enough to be enjoyable to a ignorant lard like myself. I’m slowly getting into more of Holst’s work.

The following recordings are from the London Festival Orchestra, conducted by Ross Pople.

download: { Jig | Ostinato | Intermezzo | Finale – The Dargason} (rightclick>saveas…)

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