On the 100th anniversary of the debut of Gustav Holst’s Planets Suite, Brian Cox compares the actual planets to their personas in the music: Brian Cox on Holst’s Planets then and now – The Guardian
When The Planets was completed in 1916, little was known about the physical nature of the worlds represented musically by Gustav Holst, and he didn’t care. His focus was on the planets as metaphors for different facets of the psyche; War, Peace, Jollity, Old Age, Messenger, Magician and Mystic. Indeed, Holst wrote parts of the work as stand-alone pieces and co-opted them later.
Today we have visited all the planets and our discoveries have replaced their ancient astrological characters. At first sight, this new knowledge might appear to jar with Holst’s work, but this would be a superficial conclusion to draw. The planets have histories far richer than Holst could have imagined and reality delivers more powerful metaphors than myth. Set against what we now know, Holst’s work catalyses new ideas and generates powerful intellectual challenges which enrich and inform important debates in progress today, as art with depth can and perhaps must do.
Here is one orchestral rendition of the Suite:
A review of each planet: ‘The Planets’ at 100: A listener’s guide to Holst’s solar system | MPR News
A music project has created a new 21st Century version of the Planets suite: The Planets 2018 – Ligeti Quartet – SOUND UK
The idea to reimagine The Planets using modern science came from the young British composer Samuel Bordoli who, along with producers Sound UK, paired up each musician with a planet and a mentor and asked them each to write a five-minute piece for string quartet. Titled The Planets 2018, the results are to be performed by the Ligeti Quartet in planetariums across the country from Saturday.
The timing is neat. Not only does the first concert mark 100 years to the day that Holst first debuted his Planets suite, but Greenwich – where the planetarium tour begins – is the location where astronomers conclusively disproved Lowell’s claim of a Martian army building waterways 33.5 million miles away.