The Philadelphia Orchestra, under the baton of Eugene Ormandy [1899-1985] performs from Gustav Holst's Planets—"Mars," the bringer of war, in a 1975 concert. by the London Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Albert Coates in Queen's Hall, London, on November 15, 1920.
Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky; and his philosophical and spiritual ones astrology and theosophy
Gustav 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," it's 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." "Saturn" can be viewed as indicative of Holst's later mature style, and indeed it is recorded that Holst preferred this movement to all others in the suite. 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. This notion mat be somewhat outlandish, but the music seems to lend credence to this. "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.
Add this to Holst's passionately felt socialism and his profound understanding of Hinduism, and The Planets begins to make sense: not as an astrological chart à la Mystic Meg, but as a pilgrim's progress from the ferocity of industrialised capitalism (Mars) towards a karma of enlightenment (Neptune). Holst called the work Seven Pieces for Large Orchestra; the names of the planets were added later.
|Gustav Holst [1874-1934]: "If nobody likes your work,
you have to go on just for the sake of the work. And you're in no danger
of letting the public make you repeat yourself. Every artist ought to
pray that he may not be 'a succes'. If he's a failure he stands a good
chance of concentrating upon the best work of which he's capable."|
Artist Credit: Herbert Lambert; 1921 [© National Portrait Gallery, London]