Original Gustav Holst scores discovered in New Zealand library

Experts believe one of the works, Folk Songs from Somerset, has not been played or heard in more than a century

Two original scores from English composer Gustav Holst have been found in New Zealand, more than a hundred years after they were first written.

Folk Songs from Somerset and Two Songs Without Words were both written in 1906 and were re-discovered in the library of the Bay of Plenty Symphonia, on the east coast of the North Island.

It is not known how the two works by the composer best known for The Planets found their way to New Zealand, but both are in “excellent condition” and showing minimal signs of damage, said symphonia musician Bronya Dean.

Dean was able to authenticate the works by matching the handwriting, address and signature of Holst with internet sources, and confirming the discovery with the Holst Archive in England.

According to the BOP Symphonia, Folk Songs of Somerset was last performed by the City of Bath Pump Room Orchestra in 1906 and conducted by Holst.

Bronya Dean, Gloria Pheasant and Justus Rozemond examine the score of Folk Songs From Somerset.
Bronya Dean, Gloria Pheasant and Justus Rozemond examine the score of Folk Songs From Somerset. Photograph: Bay of Plenty Symphonia

After this, Holst reworked some of the score into his new work A Somerset Rhapsody, which was published in 1907 and continues to be performed today.

The original Folk Songs from Somerset was never published and has not been played or heard in over a century.

“It is very exciting,” says Dean. “I like Holst and know his work reasonably well but it is really nice to have some sort of personal connection to him now, it feels genuinely close.”

Justus Rozemond, music director of BOP Symphonia, first sighted the lost scores a few years ago while clearing out the archive with librarian Gloria Pheasant. He said his initial response was one of “disbelief”.

“The signs were there such as the the handwriting matched, and the address on the front page made sense but I still didn’t believe it. Life teaches you to be sceptical if things look too good to be true.”

Rozemond has made a computer recording of both scores and said Holst’s Folk Songs from Somerset may not be a “great work”, but it is certainly “tuneful”.

“The most interesting bit is the middle section, where the musical material is more developed” says Rozemond.

“Holst basically re-did this middle section, and expanded it into the Somerset Rhapsody, which he must have been more pleased about. Still, it’s performable, definitely tuneful”.

The Bay of Plenty Symphonia plans to perform the lost works early next year, and then said it was likely they would send them to England, where archivists and music historians were eagerly anticipating their return.

“These manuscripts are a remarkable find,” said Colin Matthews of the Holst Foundation in the UK.

“Particularly the Folk Songs from Somerset which don’t exist elsewhere in this form.”

Gustav Holst was born in 1874 and died in 1934. He was one of several English composers in the early 20th century who were interested in using folk songs in their compositions.


Eleanor Ainge Roy in Dunedin

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

The inner orbit of Gustav Holst
Did a folksong-loving teacher really just happen to write England's most famous classical work? Film-maker Tony Palmer questions the myth

Tony Palmer

21, Apr, 2011 @9:00 PM

Article image
New Zealand city in an Easter 'kerfuffle' over Ed Sheeran
Dunedin is divided over a mural of the singer and special licences to serve alcohol over Easter

Eleanor Ainge Roy in Dunedin

26, Mar, 2018 @10:11 PM

CD: Holst, The Planets: LSO/Davis

(LSO Live)

Andrew Clements

25, Apr, 2003 @1:11 AM

Letter: Modest aims of Holst museum
Letter: Those of us engaged with the Holst Birthplace Museum are delighted that Tony Palmer has made such a splendid film about the life and music of Gustav Holst

27, Apr, 2011 @11:05 PM

Holst: The Collector's Edition – review
In this Holst survey The Planets are well represented but there seems to be no place for his great opera Savitri, writes Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements

28, Jun, 2012 @9:20 PM

Holst: First Choral Symphony; The Mystic Trumpeter – review
It's not the symphony that makes the big impression here, but Holst's assured setting of a Whitman poem, writes Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements

17, Oct, 2013 @10:00 PM

Holst: The Planets; Beni Mora; Japanese Suite – review
Chandos resumes its Holst survey after the sudden death of Richard Hickox with a fine if unduly cautious second disc under Andrew Davis, writes Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements

17, Feb, 2011 @10:40 PM

Holst: Orchestral Works, Vol 1

It brings together all of Holst's scores for dancing, only one of which is ever heard in the concert hall today

Andrew Clements

02, Jan, 2009 @12:01 AM

Article image
Holst: Whitman Overture; Cotswolds Symphony; Indra; Japanese Suite, etc – review
To judge from these works, all very impressively played, Holst's style took some years to settle down completely, writes Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements

04, Jul, 2012 @2:13 PM

CD: Adams: I Was Looking at the Ceiling

(Naxos, two CDs)

Andrew Clements

14, Oct, 2005 @12:21 AM