Overview of Gustav Holst's The Planets

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Gustav Holst: The Planets, Op. 32
Performed by Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Conducted by Andrè Previn Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was an English composer well known for his orchestral suite The Planets. Holst began his trip into the musical world as a young pianist. His father, Adolph Holst, was a skilled pianist who wanted Gustav to succeed at playing as he did. Gustav, however, was impaired by neuritis making it difficult to play for long hours. As Gustav aged he began trying to compose music instead. Gustav failed to gain scholarships to any colleges and his father, after hearing one of Gustav’s small town operettas, borrowed money to pay for his college. Gustav’s influences were pieces such as Wagner’s Götterdämmerung and Tristan and
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Holst borrowed ideas from composers such as Scheonberg, Stravinsky, and Debussy. The Planets became Holst’s most well renowned composition. Nevertheless, Holst despised the popularity the composition gained. He swore off astrology (until he read friends horoscopes in later life) and refused to sign autographs. His later music disappointed the public. The Planets was composed from 1914-1916. It was the time of the World War I. Adrian Boult did not conduct it until 1918 in a private concert for Henry Balfour Gardiner, who helped Holst earlier on with his composing career. It was not until 1920 that Albert Coates performed it in its entirety to Queen’s Hall. It is an orchestral piece arranged into seven movements. Each movement dedicates itself to the planets known at the time besides Earth. “Holst considered each movement a progression of life.” (Taylor) The first movement is “Mars, the Bringer of War.” It begins moderately quiet with mainly percussion and strings attacking the ostinato in a march like 5/4 meter. Brass begins to crescendo its way in before the terraced dynamics of the upper woodwinds begin. It is a moderately fast piece. The main goal of the piece is to create a war-like sound. The beginning creates a sound that feels like troops are gathering and it continues until both sides attack, recuperate, and attack again with full force (during the coda). The tenor tuba carries the melody while the march-like rhythm keeps reappearing. As the piece

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