Holst: In the Bleak Midwinter

Tony Palmer Films: TPDVD173

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Holst: In the Bleak Midwinter

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Release date:

18th April 2011




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Holst: In the Bleak Midwinter

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This new DVD from director Tony Palmer telling the story of Gustav Holst is the first ever film about this extraordinary composer.

The full-length film biography of Holst will be premiered on BBC 4 in April. It includes previously unseen material with his daughter Imogen, his pupils Michael Tippett, Herbert Howells, Edmund Rubbra and the 102 year-old Elliott Carter, as well as a dozen pupils from St Paul's Girls School in Hammersmith who remember him from the time he was Director of Music at the school.

Holst led an extraordinary life. He taught himself Sanskrit, lived in a street of brothels in Algiers, cycled into the Sahara Desert and allied himself during the First World War with a ‘red priest’ who pinned on the door of his church “prayers at noon for the victims of Imperial Aggression”. He hated the words used to his most famous tune “I Vow to Thee My Country” because it was the opposite of what he believed and he distributed a newspaper called The Socialist Worker. Holst was a very great composer whose music - especially The Planets - owed little or nothing to anyone, least of all the ‘English folk song tradition’. He tragically died of cancer, broken and disillusioned, before he was 60.

BBC Music Magazine

July 2011


“[musical excerpts] are excellently performed, including a lovely extract from Holst's beautiful but rarely heard choral Ode to Death.”

Radio Times

“This two-hour musical biography of Gustav Holst sits impressively in Tony Palmer's array of marvellous films about musicians...A generous set of performances interleaves here with the story of a remarkable man.”

Sunday Telegraph

17th April 2011

“It is a marvellous, epic film (that) tells the story of this strange, brilliant man”

The Independent

15th April 2011

“Gustav Holst's The Planets is one of the best-known pieces of classical music written by a British composer. How strange, then, that we know so little of the composer's other music – or, for that matter, of the composer himself. But Tony Palmer's new full-length film about him, ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ – due for screening on BBC4 on Easter Sunday – contains more than a few startling revelations about this apparently quiet and enigmatic figure …… Palmer's film tells a moving tale, illustrated with swathes of Holst's startlingly original music. Perhaps it will turn around the fortunes of British music's most unlikely hero”

The Times

16th April 2011

“A seamless blend of beautiful photography, penetrating insight and sublime music”

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