|This is my post from this week's Tuesday Blog.|
For my last two Tuesday Blogs for 2017, I programmed some Christmas presents for you, works that should please everybody, casual and vested CM lovers alike.
Written between 1914-1916 by British composer Gustav Holst, this week’s featured work ‘The Planets’ is a suite of seven short tone poems, each representing one the known planets of the Solar System seen from Earth at the time, and their corresponding astrological character.
According to Kenric Taylor’s “Gustav Holst website” Holst seemed to consider The Planets a progression of life.
- "Mars" perhaps serves as a rocky and tormenting beginning. In fact, some have called this movement the most devastating piece of music ever written!
- "Venus" seems to provide an answer to "Mars," its title as "the bringer of peace," helps aid that claim.
- "Mercury" can be thought of as the messenger between our world and the other worlds.
- Perhaps "Jupiter" represents the "prime" of life, even with the overplayed central melody, which was later arranged to the words of "I vow to thee, my country."
- Through "Saturn" it can be said that old age is not always peaceful and happy. The movement may display the ongoing struggle for life against the odd supernatural forces.
- "Saturn" is followed by "Uranus, the Magician," a quirky scherzo displaying a robust musical climax before…
- … the tranquility of the female choir in "Neptune" enchants the audience.
(More insight on the astrological meaning of each planet can be found here )
The piece displays that Holst was in touch with his musical contemporaries. There are obvious ideas borrowed from Schoenberg, Stravinsky, and Debussy (the quality of "Neptune" resembles earlier Debussy piano music.)
Holst never wrote another piece like The Planets again. He hated its popularity. When people would ask for his autograph, he gave them a typed sheet of paper that stated that he didn't give out autographs. The public seemed to demand of him more music like The Planets, and his later music seemed to disappoint them. In fact, after writing the piece, he swore off his belief in astrology, though until the end of his life he cast his friends horoscopes. How ironic that the piece that made his name famous throughout the world brought him the least joy in the end.
For your listening pleasure, I chose the 1987 Decca release by Charles Dutoit and l’Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal from my vinyl collection. Some of the movements were already available on YouTube, I simply added the missing movements to complete the playlist.
Gustav HOLST (1874–1934)
The Planets, op. 32
Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal
Choeur des Femmes de l'OSM [”Neptune”] (Iwan Edwards, chorus master)
Charles Dutoit, conducting
London Records – 417 553-1 LH
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album (DDA)
Recording location: L'église de Saint-Eustache, Qc , June 1986.
YouTube Playlist - https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...HhUffUlNTwt8sl
Internet Archive URL - https://archive.org/details/05SaturnTheBringerOfOldAge