Holy Week 2019
I couldn't resist looking a bit at the orchestral parts for Gustav Holst's Hymn of Jesus before I shipped them off again.
The trombones start the work with the pange lingua chant melody, and they have this note written in their parts:
Note: As the free rhythm of plainsong cannot be expressed in modern notation, the Trombone and Cor Anglais players are to study the manner in which this melody is sung by experienced singers.
Really? Holst expects trombonists to "study"? Does Holst really know trombonists? (Well, yes, as a matter of fact; he was one himself.)
And where do you find these "experienced singers"? Was Holst expecting the monks of Solesmes, or just your average Anglican choirmen? An interesting performance issue to be sure.
Looking a little more closely at some of Holsts articulations in this trombone part, it quickly becomes apparent that his ideas of how the chant should go are not my ideas about how the chant should go.
And a little later on, under an asterisk:
By using the positions marked, the Trombone players will avoid the unpleasant smearing of one note into antother. If this cannot be managed, the melody is to be played on the Horns.
This is an interesting window into the world of a young composer who is maybe too eager to exercise a little extra control over the instrument which he himself plays.
And compare "study" with "unpleasant smearing". The latter sounds a lot more like trombonists I know.
At least Holst and I agree on that bit.
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