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Program Notes

Second Suite in F


Gustav Holst, composer

Like Holst’s First Suite, the Second Suite had to wait more than ten years to receive its first performance. The Second Suite is based entirely on material from folk songs and morris dances. The first movement starts with a morris dance followed by the lyric folk song Swansea Town. The tune at the trio is Claudy Banks. The second movement uses the Cornish song I’ll Love My Love, a modal lament about a maiden sent to Bedlam because her true love has gone to sea. The "Song of the Blacksmith" uses changing meters and anvil effects in the percussion section to create its atmosphere. The final movement, "Fantasia on the Dargason," was later used by Holst as the finale of the St. Paul Suite for string orchestra.


Gustav Holst’s Second Suite, composed in 1911, uses English folk songs and folk dance tunes throughout. The suite has four movements, each with its own distinctive character. The opening march movement uses three tunes, set in the pattern ABCAB. Tune A is a lively Morris dance, a type of dance that was very popular in the Renaissance. Tune B, a folk song called Swansea Town, is broad and lyrical. The third tune, Claudy Banks, is distinctly different from the other two, having a lilting, swinging feeling derived from its compound duple meter. The second movement of the suite is a slow, tender setting of the English love song, I’ll Love My Love. The third movement, Song of the Blacksmith, is complex rhythmically. It demonstrates Holst’s inventive scoring with a lively rhythm being played on the blacksmith’s anvil. The last movement, The Dargason, is an English country dance and folk song dating at least from the sixteenth century. Holst combines it with the well-known love song Greensleeves.

—R. John Specht, Queensborough Community College

The Second Suite in F was written in 1911 and is considered one of the cornerstones of the concert band literature. Composed for “Military Band” (which is the English designation for full band instrumentation as opposed to a British Brass Band), the four-movement suite presents a variety of English folk songs and other dance tunes. The first movement begins with a “Morris Dance&rquo; with roots from the Renaissance, followed by the folk song “Swansea Town,” and then “Claudy Banks”. The second movement is a slow, lyrical love song “I’ll Love my Love.” The third movement, “The Song of the Blacksmith,” is a clever rhythmic display that includes the blacksmith’s punctuating anvil, and the fourth movement is a country dance and folk song titled “The Dargason.”



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