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Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Gustav Holst (x2)

I think we'll take a raincheck on the rash of new blue plaques from Norway - must have been quite funny to see the double take wandering the slush edged streets of Moss and spotting a handful of plaques while visiting cousin Rebecca whosw teaching in Norway and instead deal with the single rather out-of-place plaque in Thaxsted spotted on our cross-country jaunt in the ewarly hours of last night once wed landed and found the M11 northbound blocked off after an accident. Its a lovely village Thaxted. Weirdly M knows the vicars son (also a vicar) who was stationed in March at M's church. Thaxted is a lovely, rather twee, village all half-timbered houses and cobbled lanes and gives the impression of being lavender scented. It was mentioned in the Domesday Book and was a centre of cutlery production. Holst was a long time resident and Diana Wynne Jones the childrens author who wrote Howl's Moving Castle was riased there. Her name is one on my mind as she died only a week or so ago. I guess that Holst is best known for his Planets Suite and the setting for I vow to thee my country is named after the village. His other blue plaque is just down the riverside from Dame Ninette de Valois in Barnes. Reading his wikiography made me smile a socialist, vegetarian, asthmatic rambler... He was born on Swedish stock in 1874 in Cheltenham and was raised in a musical family - his grandfather was a composer and a music teacher, his father an organist and choirmaster, his mother a singer. He was a gifted pianist but was a sufferer of a nervous disorder which affected his right hand so switched instruments to the trombone. He played for both the Carl Rosa Opera Company and the White Viennese Band which by all accounts he less than enjoyed. He became interested in Hinduism and several of his early works set Sanskrit texts to music. He enrolled in Sanskrit classes at UCL. He was teaching music at this point in West London - Janes Allens Girls School and St Pauls Girls School. He wrote and travelled associating with local musicians and the avant garde of the early 20th century picking up influences here and there a great example being astrology which he described as his secret vice which he learnt about travelling in Spain and which of course shaped his most famous work - the Planets Suite

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