Gustav Holst’s ‘Suite for Large Orchestra’ known as The Planets was premiered in 1918. The rapturous reception ensured the fame of its composer. It is the only work of Holst to enter the international repertoire, which is a great pity, for this composer wrote many works of equal stature to The Planets.
The Planets shows Holst to be perfectly attuned to contemporary music of the time. The influence of Stravinsky’s ballets The Firebird and The Rite of Spring can be detected in ‘Mercury’ and ‘Mars’; Ravel and Schoenberg can be glimpsed in other places. This is not to say that Holst hadn’t created a unique style. The Planets, Egdon Heath, Savitri, and The Perfect Fool all show him to have one of the most distinct voices among 20th-century composers.
The Planets is one of the most famous orchestral works of the last 100 years, and has influenced many a soundtrack composer tasked with a sci-fi score!
‘Ozawa’s interpretation of The Planets is assuredly not in the Boult tradition, but brings a fresh approach to Holst’s sole excursion into extravagance. Tempos are not those to which we are accustomed: “Mars” brings war at record speed and “Mercury” is a more leisurely winged messenger than usual. Both “Venus” and “Jupiter” are presented more conventionally and are finely played by the Boston Symphony Orchestra … it is stimulating to encounter a fresh mind at work on the music.’ Gramophone, JUNE 1987
Recording made in 1980
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