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A Fugal Overture was written in 1922 by Gustav Holst. It was first performed at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden on 14 May 1923 and was used as an opening work to Holst’s one-act opera The Perfect Fool. It received its concert premiere on 11 October 1923 at one of Henry Wood’s Queen’s Hall Promenade Concerts. It is an early example of neoclassicism and was influenced by the counterpoint of J. S. Bach, despite its unconventional use of the fugal process.


Holst began writing the piece in the summer of 1922, having hoped to develop it into a ballet. It is divided into three sections, the fugal subject with its distinct 3+3+2 pattern, a slower section with solos at the end, and a third section where the subject returns.


Although reviews of the piece were mixed at the time of its premiere, the likes of Adrian Boult have said it was “an invigorating work that could effectively start any […] concert". In more recent years, it has been compared to John Adam’s A Short Ride in a Fast Machine.


This arrangement is for the British-style brass band, with alternative parts for horns in F and bass-clef lower brass. A recording of the original composition can be found here:


Duration: Approx. 5.40 minutes


Difficulty Level: 1st Section +


PDF download includes parts and score. 


Sheet music available from



Soprano Cornet Eb

Solo Cornet Bb

Repiano Cornet Bb

2nd Cornet Bb

3rd Cornet Bb

Flugel Horn Bb

Solo Horn Eb

1st Horn Eb

2nd Horn Eb

1st Baritone Bb

2nd Baritone Bb

1st Trombone Bb

2nd Trombone Bb

Bass Trombone

Euphonium Bb

Bass Eb

Bass Bb

Percussion 1-2

A Fugal Overture (Brass Band) Gustav Holst arr. Rob Bushnell

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