Last year I had the privilege of seeing the Philadelphia Orchestra perform Gustav Holst’s: The Planets Suite. The piece as a whole is one that pulls the strings of your heart from the first pound to the last mystic moment of silence. It has been a year since I heard the orchestral piece in full, and ever since, I have been awaiting to get an opportunity like that again. It is unfortunately a rare occurance in my generation to feel so strongly about a piece of art. The world is at our fingertips, and yet we have no urge to explore it.
According to Gustav, the Planets were a depiction of life and the many stages of its progression. As a young adult and musician this suite inspired a new way of seeing, feeling, and hearing life. Thierry Fischer, a music director at Utah Symphony wrote, “Holst denied that the suite has any connection to the classical Zodiac other than the names and traits of the personified planets, that connection by itself is enough for the music to conjure strong images of the mythological deities associated with each.” Mars, the bringer of war, begins with five quiet yet dominant beats in a reverberating 5/4 rhythm. As the movement continues we hear the grinding minor chords, which leaves the ear unsettled. Mars is said to be an obvious illustration of war, the depressing and frightening steady march of soldiers as they walk toward the unknown. Throughout the entire movement there is no clear harmonic release, the chromaticism just sways back and forth.