Holst - The Planets
The Planets is a sublime masterpiece of celestial portraiture and the ultimate musical guide to our solar system changed Holst's life forever. Cast in seven movements, each one depicts one of the then-known planets, except Earth.
1. Mars, the Bringer of War
'Mars' was composed shortly before the outbreak of World War I and is therefore prophetic of its mind-numbing horrors.
2. Venus, the Bringer of Peace
The cool blue Venus follows angry red Mars. The music is slower and beautifully eerie, complete with relaxing tunes played on harps and flutes, shimmering strings, to call to mind the Roman goddess.
3. Mercury, the Winged Messenger
Flighty and fast, the lively Mercury is quick and powerful in equal measure. The high-pitched harp, flute, and glockenspiel tunes hop, skip, and jump throughout the suite’s short duration – usually just over four minutes.
4. Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity
Jupiter is impressive and majestic. The swelling brass and slow waltzing strings are met with moments of poignant beauty in the glorious tune now known as ‘I Vow to Thee My Country’.
5. Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age
A favourite movement of Holst’s, Saturn is quite a shift from the positive music heard in Jupiter. The opening is slow and almost unsettling, until the music expands into a heavy march.
6. Uranus, the Magician
Starting with four brassy notes, Uranus shifts from heavy timpani blows to a boisterous gallop. The full orchestra shows the impressive power of this icy planet, represented in Greek mythology as the god of the sky.
7. Neptune, the Mystic
When Holst scored this work as a piece for piano duet, he used the piano which he thought couldn’t portray a planet as mysterious as Neptune. Beautiful harp and string melodies slide over each other, until Holst brings out the crowning glory: a mystical choir, which gives the music an other-worldly quality.