Composers Datebook

Composers Datebook is a daily two-minute program designed to inform, engage, and entertain listeners with timely information about composers of the past and present. Each program notes significant or intriguing musical events involving composers of the past and present—with appropriate and accessible music related to each.



Holst and Hammersmith

The British composer Gustav Holst lived and worked in a West London neighborhood called Hammersmith for many years—and in 1930, Holst gave that name to a work for wind band he wrote on commission from the BBC. “Hammersmith” opens with a "Prelude" representing the river Thames, which, said Holst, "goes on its way unnoticed and unconcerned." A “Scherzo” section represents the hustle and bustle of Hammersmith’s market, exemplified, according to Holst’s daughter, by a large woman at a fruit stand who always called her father 'dearie' when he bought oranges for their Sunday picnics In 1931, “Hammersmith” was first performed in England in the composer’s own orchestral arrangement by the B. B. C. Symphony led by Adrian Boult—and the piece was booed. Holst’s bad luck continued the following year: He was scheduled to conduct the premiere of the original wind band version of “Hammersmith” on today’s date at the 1932 American Bandmasters Association Convention in Washington, D.C., but had to cancel his trip due to illness. The DC premiere took place as scheduled, but with the U.S. Marine Band led by Taylor Branson, rather than the composer. For the next 22 years, the original, wind band version of “Hammersmith” remained neglected until Robert Cantrick and the Carnegie Institute of Technology Kiltie Band in Pittsburgh gave what they thought was its world premiere performance in 1954. It seems even Holst’s publisher had forgotten all about its 1932 American premiere.


 2019-04-17  1m