Appreciating Holst: Beyond “The Planets”

Posted on: March 12, 2020

“Not long after Gustav Holst’s The Planets premiered in 1918, it became a supernova hit,” writes Tom Huizenga on Tuesday (3/11) at National Public Radio. “It still is…. It’s also been sampled, stolen and favored by the likes of Frank Zappa, John Williams, Hans Zimmer and any number of prog-rock and metal bands…. The Planets is an extraordinary tour de force…. There is the wall of sound, ear blasting music heard in ‘Mars, the Bringer or War’; some trippy, spaced out music in ‘Neptune, the Mystic’; and then some totally singable tunes found in ‘Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity.’ But there’s a lot more to Holst than this single, smash hit…. He took texts from the Rig Veda and set them to music—very mysterious and very beautiful. And he was also absorbed in the folk music of … the British Isles, which is evident in his wonderful piece for string orchestra called the St. Paul’s Suite. [In the] third movement ‘Intermezzo’ … a solo violin spins a serpentine little melody, joined by a solo viola. It’s just really gorgeous…. It’s important not to forget about these other pieces that kind of lie on the dark side of Holst’s moon.”