Holst was the creator of operas, chamber, vocal, and orchestral music of many different styles. His music was based on subjects such as folk songs, Tudor music, Sanskrit literature, astrology, and contemporary poetry.
Gustavus Theodore von Holst was born in Cheltenham, England, in 1874. His grandfather, Gustavus von Holst, was a composer of elegant music for the harp. Holst's father Adolph, a pianist, organist and choirmaster, taught piano lessons and gave recitals. As a child whose first recollections were musical, Holst was taught to play the piano and violin, and began to compose when he was twelve.
Holst met Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1895 while they were students at the Royal College of Music, and they became dependent on one another for support and assistance although there was little similarity in their music.
Holst found it impossible to earn a living as a composer, so he took a post as a singing teacher. Around 1904 he was appointed Musical Director at St. Paul's Girls' School, Hammersmith, his biggest teaching post and one which he kept until his death. Holst visited the United States twice, once to lecture at the University of Michigan, and again for a six-month period as a lecturer at Harvard.
He died in 1934, four months short of his sixtieth birthday, after a lifetime of poor health by a concussion suffered in a backward fall from the conductor's podium, from which he never fully recovered.