Gustav Holst, born in Cheltenham in September 1847, is still today considered to be one of the greatest music composers of all time. He was not very fond of music when he was younger, but he enjoyed the piano. He was sent to Cheltenham Grammar School and forced to take long music lessons, even though he had neuritis in his hands.
His first job was an organist and Choirmaster at the Choral Society, Bourbon on the Water. Impressed at his good ear for music, his father borrowed some money to send him to the Royal College of Music, which he had previously failed to enter.
As he got older, the neuritis in his hands got worse, and it was almost impossible for him to play the piano, so he took up the trombone. It allowed him to play in orchestras, and earn a decent income. Being hard up for money, he used to play his trombone on the pier for cash at Brighton during the summer holidays. During this period, Holst wrote his first opera, it was called The Revoke, based on a card game in Beau Brummel.
Later on, Holst conducted the Hammersmith Socialist Choir, and fell in love with his youngest blonde-haired, blue-eyed soprano, whose name was Isobel Harrison.
In 1989, Holst began to work on his Opera, Sita, based on the Hindu fable of Ramayana. He worked on it until 1906, but it was never performed in his lifetime.
Gustav married Isobel in 1901 and their first home was in Shepherds Bush. He was very upset when his father died, so he and Isobel went on a short holiday to Berlin. He returned to London with a higher confidence level, and decided to give up the trombone so that he could concentrate on his composing.
... the gift of being able to play music and listen to music, but they only got to play for the higher classes. Mozart did ... less than two months, the two children could not play their beloved music for it disturbing their father. The nine-year old ... had to learn a piece of music, or people would come to play it for you. Since music was so uncommon, it wasn ...
After many refusals of his works, Holst became rather unwell, so took him to Algeria for a holiday. The warm climate and bright colours of Algeria inspired Holst, so he decided to start working on a new piece called Beni Mora, but it was not a great success.
In 1912, his performance of The Cloud Messenger was a hit, so he went to Spain for a holiday to celebrate. While there, he met Clifford Bax, who encouraged him to write a movement called The Planets. It was very successful.
In 1923, Holst was conducting a rehearsal at University College, when he slipped and fell off the platform onto his head. The damage was deadly, and it was years before he recovered from the effects.
Later on, after a trip to America, Holst received great congratulations for his performance of the Planets, and an anonymous rich man gave him several hundred pounds to spend on his music. But, Holst was beginning to have bad effects of the concussion he was in earlier, and he couldn’t bear to have anything touch the back of his head. He spent many nights in agony, so his doctor suggested that he moved away from London.
So that is exactly what he did. He bought a small house in Thaxtead and lived there for nearly a year, but much of his music was failing.
In 1926, Holst was working in Dorset. He wrote a piece called Egdon Health dedicated to Thomas Hardy, and he knew it was the best thing he had ever written.
In 1929, Holst travelled to America, again where he was guest of honour at The Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was representing British Arts. He died a year later on the 25th of May, 1930.