Gustav Holst – The Planets, Op. 32Posted: April 4, 2013
“The Planets”, Op. 32, is a seven-movement orchestral suite by the English composer Gustav Holst, written between 1914 and 1916. Each movement of the suite is named after a planet of the Solar System and its corresponding astrological character as defined by Holst. With the exception of Earth, which is not observed in astrological practice, all the planets are represented.
The idea of the work was suggested to Holst by Clifford Bax, who introduced him to astrology when the two were part of a small group of English artists holidaying in Majorca in the spring of 1913; Holst became quite a devotee of the subject, and liked to cast his friends’ horoscopes for fun.
The suite has seven movements, each named after a planet and its corresponding astrological character:
1. Mars, the Bringer of War (00:00 – 07:21)
2. Venus, the Bringer of Peace (07:22 – 15:59);
3. Mercury, the Winged Messenger (16:00 – 19:51);
4. Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity (19:52 – 27:49);
5. Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age (27:50 – 36:31);
6. Uranus, the Magician (36:32 – 42:14)
7. Neptune, the Mystic (42:15 – 49:01).
Holst’s original title (clearly seen on the handwritten full score) was “Seven Pieces for Large Orchestra”. he orchestral premiere of The Planets suite, conducted at Holst’s request by Adrian Boult, was held at short notice on 29 September 1918, during the last weeks of World War I, in the Queen’s Hall with the financial support of Holst’s friend and fellow composer Henry Balfour Gardiner. It was hastily rehearsed; the musicians of the Queen’s Hall Orchestra first saw the complicated music only two hours before the performance, and the choir for “Neptune” was recruited from pupils from St Paul’s Girls’ School (where Holst taught). It was a comparatively intimate affair, attended by around 250 invited associates, but Holst regarded it as the public premiere, inscribing Boult’s copy of the score, “This copy is the property of Adrian Boult who first caused the Planets to shine in public and thereby earned the gratitude of Gustav Holst.”
Conductor: Andrè Previn & Royal Philharmonic Orchestra