Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-684899dbb8-662rr Total loading time: 0.222 Render date: 2022-05-24T16:58:22.160Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true }

7 - Gustav Holst’s Beni Mora and the Orientalist Imagination

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2020

Get access

Summary

OFTEN fuelled by literary works, the tone poem became a consistent mode of expression for Gustav Holst throughout his career. Holst is better known, though, for his symphonic suite, The Planets, where each movement is a virtuoso character piece based on astrological symbols. His success as a mature composer of tone poems is indebted to these types of character suites. They pervade his early compositional life: the Suite de Ballet (1899), Phantastes Suite (1911), Japanese Suite (1915), even the dances from The Perfect Fool (1924). At the same time, though, the tone poem was not a genre completely alien to the composer, especially early on, with works such as A Winter Idyll (1897) and Indra (1903).

In the twentieth century musical genres were constantly subject to intermixing or overlap, and such is the case with Beni Mora (c.1908–12). There the genre division between character suite and tone poem seems to become enmeshed, with fascinating results. Though consisting of three movements, only the last of these carries an evocative subtitle, ‘In the Street of the Ouled Naïls’, signalling its status as a separate tone poem. In early performances, Holst even announced the narrative for this music from the rostrum, or had it printed in the programme. In addition to the issue of generic hybridity, the work also represents a synthesis of two longstanding motivators of tone poem composition which would become central to Holst's later compositions in the genre Egdon Heath (1927) and Hammersmith (1930): literary inspiration and autobiographical narrative.

Beni Mora has long been rightfully associated with Holst's solo vacation to Algeria in 1908, where he supposedly travelled through the desert by bicycle, collecting folk tunes along the way. However, this charming narrative, promoted by his daughter and principal biographer Imogen Holst, does not explain the specific title of the suite, borrowed from Robert Hichens's orientalist novel, The Garden of Allah (1904). In the novel an English girl, Domini, travels to North Africa to find herself. She is both shocked and fascinated by her exotic surroundings, and in the course of the story becomes pregnant (the result of a torrid and tragic affair with a monk). She eventually decides to remain in the desert, finding meaning for her life in her child.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2020

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×