Friday, September 23, 2011

Gustav Holst: "The Planets" (Op. 32)

Gustav Holst: The Planets Op. 32

Mars, the Bringer of War - Venus, the Bringer of Peace - Mercury, the Winged Messenger - Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity - Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age - Uranus, the Magician - Neptune, the Mystic.

Holst called his piece "a series of mood pictures." He seemed to consider The Planets a progression of life. "Mars" perhaps serves as a rocky and tormenting beginning; it was written in 1914, and clearly forecasts the upcoming devastation of World War I. In contrast, the gentle restrains of "Venus" seems to provide an answer to "Mars" and the concept of Venus as "the bringer of peace" helps aid that claim. "Mercury" and its delightfully quick movements can be thought of as the messenger between our world and the other worlds. Perhaps "Jupiter" and its optimistic nature 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 also reflects the death of Holst's father. 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 may 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.

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