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Gustav Holst: "Second Suite in F"

Our second day of Holst Suites will be dedicated to the Second Suite in F, another hugely influential piece in the wind repertoire. The piece was written only two years after the First Suite in Eb and, although it is not as popular as the First Suite, the Second Suite is still a very important piece, and notable for Holst's orchestrational style with regards to winds. Notice the contrast in number of movements and that Holst chooses to use more folk tunes (seven total) than in the First Suite. This second suite for winds is generally considered more difficult to perform than the Suite in Eb.

Gustav Holst, Second Suite in F

I: March, Morris Dance, Swansea Towns, Claudy Banks

II: Song Without Words, I'll Love My Love

III: Song of the Blacksmith

IV: Fantasia on the Dargason

Cleveland Symphonic Winds, Frederick Fennell, conductor

Program notes below from the Philharmonic Winds.

This suite, composed in 1911, uses English folk songs and folk dance tunes throughout, being written at a time when Holst needed to rest from the strain of original composition. The opening march movement uses three tunes, the first of which is a lively Morris Dance. The folk song Swansea Town is next, played broadly and lyrically by the euphonium, followed by the entire band playing the tune in block harmonies - a typically English sound. Claudy Banks is the third tune, brimming with vitality and the vibrant sound of unison clarinets. The first two tunes are repeated to conclude the first movement. The second movement is a setting for the English folk song I'll Love My Love. It is a sad story of a young maiden driven into Bedlam by grief over her lover being sent to sea by his parents to prevent their marriage. The Hampshire folk song, The Song of the Blacksmith, is the basis of the third movement, which evokes visions of the sparks from red hot metal being beaten with a lively hammer's rhythm on the blacksmith's anvil. The English country-dance and folk song, The Dargason, dating from the sixteenth century, completes the suite in a manner that continues to cycle and seems to have no end. The Elizabethan love tune Greensleeves is intertwined briefly and withdrawn before the final witty scoring of a piccolo and tuba duet four octaves apart.

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