Coming back to Holst

Mars in the darkness of space

I always do. In the last few years, politics and COVID and financial troubles left little time for contemplating music but sooner or later, it had to happen. I sat down and listened to Mars, and thought yes, that’s how it is, and felt better. Then I listened to Jupiter, and rallied my internal troops and then I ranged out into the far distant planets, and regained my sense of balance and proportion. (And you know, Holst produced far more than the Planets Suite across his busy life and once you start exploring, well…)

The LP my dad had when I was a kid

Thank you, Gustav Holst, who said it all. Of course, many others have said it all in many other ways since but he was a ground breaker, and will always be a favourite of mine. That’s why I am still very proud and very pleased that composer Michael Short came to me, and asked to use my little press when OUP dropped his superb biography of Holst. It’s a very unusual approach, and I think a stroke of genius – in ‘The Man and His Music’ – Michael wrote two biographies. The first section is about the man, his family, his health, his travels and his struggles, and the second is about the music – and for those who know the territory, this second part shows with even more eloquence how the music was rooted in Holst’s socialism, and his love of community singing and teaching, and how its topmost branches reached the stars, and can still carry us from root to sky, everywhere we ever need to go.

‘The Man and His Music’ may no longer generate enough interest for a giant publisher like OUP to be interested but people do still come back to Holst, and when they do, it’s a joy to read this superb book. For the musicians, both halves are riveting. For the rest of us, the first half is riveting, and the second an insight into Holst’s unique and passionate way of speaking through music. I love this book, and recommend it above all others as a sanctuary and re-fuelling stop in difficult times.

Michael Short’s book

Or buy direct from the publisher – post free to UK addresses…

‘Gustav Holst the Man and His Music’ by Michael Short

NEW EDITION of Michael Short’s biography of Gustav Holst. “A treasure house of information, an absolutely indispensable guide” – Tony Palmer, film maker. Direct from the publisher, post free to UK addresses


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