Page last updated at 23:22 GMT, Thursday, 23 July 2009 00:22 UK

Film about composer Holst found


Memories of composer Gustav Holst

Rare film giving a unique insight into the life of Cheltenham-born composer Gustav Holst has been discovered by producers at BBC Gloucestershire.

The colour footage includes interviews with Holst's daughter Imogen and composers Herbert Howells and Edmund Rubbra.

The interviews were recorded for an unfinished film project in the 1970s.

Imogen Holst talks about her father's early years in Cheltenham and his double life as a composer and teacher.

Holst became music master at St Paul's Girls' School in 1905 and Branwen Melville-Smith, a former pupil, said: "In those days he didn't have the worldwide reputation he developed later.

"He was looked on with great affection and was called 'Gussy'. If anything he wasn't strict enough."

Holst's daughter goes on to discuss his later life and reveals that he had wanted to donate his body to science after his death, but his wish was not granted.

"He would have liked to have donated his body to a hospital to be useful. Either as a skeleton or for finding out about various things that had gone wrong," she said.

Gustav Holst
Holst was born in Cheltenham in 1874
He taught music at St Paul's Girls' School and Morley College
His most celebrated work is called The Planets
He dropped the "von" from his name during the First World War
Holst died in 1934

The film also reveals how the composer used to walk from London to Cheltenham with a trombone slung over his back.

Fellow composer Dr Edmund Rubbra said: "He used to practise in whatever fields he came across.

"He was practising for some hours on the Cotswold hills when an irate farmer came rushing up to him and said you're causing all this trouble with our sheep."

As a composer Holst is most famous for his orchestral suite The Planets.

Rosamund Gurney sang in the choral section of The Planets in the famous 1927 performance at Cheltenham Town Hall.

"My impression of him was that he did everything at the double and was full of nervous energy," she said.

"I'd never heard his music before. When it came to the rehearsal I didn't like it very much as it was all full of discords.

"But when it came to the concert itself, it was absolutely magnificent."

The discovery of the footage came about after an e-mail from a member of the original production team from the 1970s.

BBC Gloucestershire's David Bailey, who helped unearth the archives, said: "It's amazing to think that this footage has been hidden away all this time.

"The films give us a real insight into the life of Holst and what sort of man he really was."

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