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Holst - The Planets | BR Klassik 900208

Holst - The Planets

£12.83 £10.27

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Label: BR Klassik

Cat No: 900208

Barcode: 4035719002089

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 1

Genre: Orchestral

Release Date: 7th April 2023

Contents

Artists

Chor und Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks

Conductor

Daniel Harding

Works

Holst, Gustav

The Planets, op.32

Artists

Chor und Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks

Conductor

Daniel Harding

About

Seven musical character images – each one immensely sensual and expressive, and standing on its own like a monument. The British composer Gustav Holst, fascinated by (esoteric) astrology, chose the planets of our solar system and the characteristics attributed to them as the basis for what he referred to as musical “mood pictures” or “embodiments”. Ultimately, the seven movements of his orchestral suite The Planets, op.32, composed between 1914 and 1916, can also be understood as general explorations of human traits. The work had not been performed by the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra for almost three decades when, on 25 February 2022, the British conductor Daniel Harding brought it back to Munich’s concert audience in the Herkulessaal of the Residenz, and with great success. This CD from BR-KLASSIK provides a live recording of this very topical and extraordinary concert event.

During a trip to Mallorca in the summer of 1913, Holst’s friend Clifford Bax introduced him to astrology for the first time and the composer immediately began to draw up horoscopes for himself and his acquaintances. The extent to which he actually believed in the influence of celestial bodies on personality formation played only a subordinate role here; it was the notion of a holistic system that could encompass both man and the world that fascinated him the most. His interest in astrology also offered him a welcome break from the monotony of his life as a teacher – at St Paul’s School for Girls and at Morley College, where he taught working-class adults. Initially, a version for two pianos was written, with the movement “Neptune” scored for organ. Holst then arranged the suite for large orchestra, including organ and women’s or children’s choir in the last movement. The fact that it was originally simply entitled “Seven Pieces for Large Orchestra” was probably due to Arnold Schoenberg’s Five Pieces for Orchestra, op.16, from 1909, a work that had made a lasting impression on Holst and provided important inspiration for The Planets.

A first (private) performance of the orchestral suite took place on 29 September 1918 at the Queen’s Hall in London, with Adrian Boult conducting. Public performances of individual movements followed. A few months before the first public performance of the complete work, presented by Albert Coates and the London Symphony Orchestra on 15 November 1920, Holst revealed its cosmic subject. Before then, only the initiated knew what lay behind the rather cryptic movement designations such as “Mars, the Bringer of War” or “Neptune, the Mystic”. Holst had taken these definitions of the individual planets from Alan Leo’s Esoteric Astrology. At the premiere it was above all “Mars, the Bringer of War” that struck a chord with a nation traumatised by World War One. Remarkably, Holst had already written this first movement of his suite in the summer of 1914, when the countries of Europe were still merely engaged in patriotic sabre-rattling. His clear-sighted portrait of the destructive machinery of war – in the relentlessly repeated 5/4 march rhythm – runs counter to the positivist characterisation of “Mars the Warrior” in conventional astrology.

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