Second Suite in F for Military Band (1922)
Having been written at a time when the composer “needed rest from the strain of original composition,” this piece uses English folk songs and folk dance tunes throughout.
The opening march movement uses as the first of three tunes a lively morris dance, a type of dance popular in the Renaissance, and commonly danced in England as part of the May games. There were two groups of six male characters each, plus several solo dancers, often including a boy with a hobby horse. In Holst’s setting, the tune’s opening five-note motive is heard twice as an introduction to the first tune. The second tune, “Swansee Town,” is broad and lyrical, played by the first baritone horn. 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 is a slow, tender English love song, “I’ll Love my Love.” The sad tune, heard first in the oboe, is a setting of the folk song lyrics which tell of two lovers separated by their parents and of the deep love that they will always have for each other.
“The Song of the Blacksmith” is complex rhythmically, much of it being in septuple meter. One actually hears the stroke of the hammer on the anvil.
“The Dargason” is an English country dance dating from the sixteenth century. Its peculiar property is that it does not really have an end but keeps repeating endlessly. Holst combines “The Dargason” with the well-known haunting chantl;ike “Greensleaves,” a love song which later acquired different words and became a Christmas carol.
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