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Centennial of Holst's "The Planets"


jakeem
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One hundred years ago today, five orchestral pieces named for the planets -- musical creations by the British composer Gustav Holst (1874-1934) -- were first performed in public. The performance, conducted by Adrian Boult, was held at Queen's Hall in London for 250 invited guests.

Holst added two more movements to "The Planets" -- and the suite has endured, influencing the popular culture over the years.

The overall pieces are (the selections in bold were performed on September 29, 1918):

  • "Mars, the Bringer of War" (1914).
  • "Venus, the Bringer of Peace" (1914).
  • "Mercury, the Winged Messenger" (1916).
  • "Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity" (1914).
  • "Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age" (1915).
  • "Uranus, the Magician" (1915).
  • "Neptune, the Mystic" (1915)

In Philip Kaufman's "The Right Stuff" (1983), the re-creation of American astronaut John Glenn's historic liftoff from Cape Canaveral on February 20, 1962 used snippets from "Mars" (0:25), "Jupiter" (1:32) and "Neptune" (2:35). Bill Conti won the Academy Award for Best Original Score for his own contributions to the film.

Glenn was portrayed by actor Ed Harris.

John Williams' composition "The Imperial March" from "Star Wars: Episode 5 -- The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) is said to have been inspired by "Mars."

"Mars" apparently also influenced the score of "Gladiator" (2000), which earned an Academy Award nomination for Hans Zimmer. The British-based Gustav Holst Foundation certainly thought so, and filed suit in London -- declaring that part of the movie's soundtrack -- including "The Battle" -- infringed the copyright on "Mars."

Here's a fascinating report from NPR's Tom Huizenga about the anniversary:

https://www.npr.org/artists/91322541/gustav-holst

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I love Holst's "The Planets" suite. I learned a bit about classical music from my parents, especially my father, who played from his classical record collection all  the time.  I remember him playing "The Planets" and talking to me about the different planet compositions, the personality, so to speak, of each planet.  And as we know, the planets are named after Greek and Roman gods, so each musical piece kind of reflects the character of the god the planet is named after. My two favourites are "Jupiter", because it's so triumphant and happy sounding, and "Saturn", because it's mysterious and eerie.

It's not surprising this music has been used, either directly or via influencing sountrack composers, in movies. 

By the way, Frank Zappa loved the "Planets" suite and made musical allusions to it sometimes.

edit: I was mistaken, it's not "Saturn"  that's the "mysterious" piece, it's "Neptune" . (Aren't you all glad I corrected that? ?

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Probably the most offbeat -- and unexpected -- use of "Mars" was in a Season 2 episode of "The Venture Bros." In the animated series -- which has aired on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim since 2003 -- Henchman 21 and Henchman 24 were summoned by their villainous boss, The Monarch.

 

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The "Jupiter" movement of The Planets is used for one of the great British hymns. Called "I Vow to Thee My Country," a verse from the hymn is used as the title of the play/movie Another Country. In the hymn, the other country is meant to be heaven; in the play/movie, it is a triple entendre: heaven, homosexuality, Russia, since the play was inspired by the early life of Guy Burgess, the alienated English gay public school boy who was driven to become a Russian spy.

Here is the hymn, sung in the Albert Hall, followed by the lyrics; and the trailer from the movie. The hymn is used in the movie, but not in the trailer.

 

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

And there's another country, I've heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

 

 

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One of my favorite episodes of the 1960s British series "The Avengers" was the first Season 5 installment titled "From Venus With Love." It was the first show filmed in color and a part of the second season available to American television.

In the episode, John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and Emma Peel (Dame Diana Rigg) investigated the mysterious deaths of several amateur astronomers. Their search led to an astronomical society devoted to the planet Venus. The group was headed by Venus Brown, played by Barbara Shelley -- the longtime queen of British horror movies.

Image result for the avengers season 5 from venus with love youtube

For the season opener, composer Laurie Johnson came up with a score that featured elements of Holst's "Venus" movement.

 

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I can't name the track, but Frank Zappa offered up a variation of a "Jupiter" theme on The Mothers Of Invention "Absolutely Free" LP.  I remember when a DJ at WABX, the "underground" rock station in '68, cut from the Holst theme to Zappa's in quick cuts.  When time permits, I'll try to hunt it down.  ;) 

But wasn't aware of this anniversary, and now I'm in a conundrum----

Which version of mine do I wish to start off with listening to?........

The DG recording with the Boston Symphony/conducted by William Steinberg?

The version transcribed for organ with Peter Sykes, organist?  or.....

The electronic version by Isao Tomita?

Decisions, decisions!  B)

Sepiatone

 

 

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1 hour ago, Swithin said:

The "Jupiter" movement of The Planets is used for one of the great British hymns. Called "I Vow to Thee My Country," a verse from the hymn is used as the title of the play/movie Another Country. In the hymn, the other country is meant to be heaven; in the play/movie, it is a triple entendre: heaven, homosexuality, Russia, since the play was inspired by the early life of Guy Burgess, the alienated English gay public school boy who was driven to become a Russian spy.

Here is the hymn, sung in the Albert Hall, followed by the lyrics; and the trailer from the movie. The hymn is used in the movie, but not in the trailer.

 

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

And there's another country, I've heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

 

 

Wow! That's almost as powerful as the hymn "Jerusalem," which is derived from a poem by William Blake and ought to be Britain's official national anthem. It was used memorably in the 1981 Oscar-winning Best Picture "Chariots of Fire."

I haven't seen the 1984 film version of "Another Country," which starred Rupert Everett (as the Burgess character), Colin Firth (in his screen debut) and Cary Elwes (in his second film). The 1981 stage version starred Everett and Sir Kenneth Branagh. A young Sir Daniel Day-Lewis joined the production later.

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16 minutes ago, jakeem said:

Wow! That's almost as powerful as the hymn "Jerusalem," which is derived from a poem by William Blake and ought to be Britain's official national anthem. It was used memorably in the 1981 Oscar-winning Best Picture "Chariots of Fire."

I haven't seen the 1984 film version of "Another Country," which starred Rupert Everett (as the Burgess character), Colin Firth (in his screen debut) and Cary Elwes (in his second film). The 1981 stage version starred Everett and Sir Kenneth Branagh. A young Sir Daniel Day-Lewis joined the production later.

I saw the stage version, it was thrilling. The film also starred a young Colin Firth in the role played by Branagh on stage.

The hymn is indeed one of the major British hymns, along with "Jerusalem." Both are sung at the end of The Last Night of the Proms, a quintessentially British music festival that takes place every summer in London's Royal Albert Hall. Emerson Lake and Palmer recorded a modern version of it on their album "Brain Salad Surgery."

The first time I heard "Jerusalem" was in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, where it serves a kind of ironic function, since the boys are in a sort of reform school. It is used a lot, to summon up a kind of Englishness. It was even the title of the recent hit play by Jez Butterworth, which starred Mark Rylance.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07TLj2DFilg

Another of that great trio of English hymns is "Land of Hope and Glory," to the theme in Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance." It also inspired the name of a film (Hope and Glory). 

Dame Clara Butt was famous for her rendition of "Land of Hope and Glory." The legend says that she would sing it at Dover and could be heard in France. It is also sung every year, at the Last Night of the Proms. Here's Dame Clara:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYrdooOautE

 

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Since "Right Stuff" has already been mentioned--
I'll dig into my SegaCD gaming past, for the brief, very short-lived, and almost under-the-radar buried attempt to make "CD+G" the new home entertainment format.

It was going to be related to the new Karaoke craze, where everyone would soon presumably have a TV monitor attached to their player, with either lyrics onscreen, or 16-bit CGI graphics to watch, which would be coded into the normal audio CD that you could play in your normal stereo.  (Even though it hurt the volume, IMO.)

As has been the same story every time a company tries to release a new hardware player without explaining it to the audience, it never caught on, nobody had even heard of the format outside of crosspromoting it with Sega Genesis's new CD-ROM peripheral or Philips CDI, and almost very few quirky-cult pop CD+G's came out, but there was a healthy industry of classicals.
Most of those were either operas with lyrics, or "academic studies" of the pieces onscreen as the music played, but the all-time never-duplicated gold standard was a version of Holst's Planets, with 16-bit "video collage" music videos to fit the movements.

And now, thanks to YouTube poster "The CD+G Museum", I've been able to find them again.  ?

 

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8 hours ago, jakeem said:

One hundred years ago today, five orchestral pieces named for the planets -- musical creations by the British composer Gustav Holst (1874-1934) -- were first performed in public. The performance, conducted by Adrian Boult, was held at Queen's Hall in London for 250 invited guests.

Holst added two more movements to "The Planets" -- and the suite has endured, influencing the popular culture over the years.

The overall pieces are (the selections in bold were performed on September 29, 1918):

  • "Mars, the Bringer of War" (1914).
  • "Venus, the Bringer of Peace" (1914).
  • "Mercury, the Winged Messenger" (1916).
  • "Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity" (1914).
  • "Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age" (1915).
  • "Uranus, the Magician" (1915).
  • "Neptune, the Mystic" (1915)

In Philip Kaufman's "The Right Stuff" (1983), the re-creation of American astronaut John Glenn's historic liftoff from Cape Canaveral on February 20, 1962 used snippets from "Mars" (0:25), "Jupiter" (1:32) and "Neptune" (2:35). Bill Conti won the Academy Award for Best Original Score for his own contributions to the film.

Glenn was portrayed by actor Ed Harris.

John Williams' composition "The Imperial March" from "Star Wars: Episode 5 -- The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) is said to have been inspired by "Mars."

"Mars" apparently also influenced the score of "Gladiator" (2000), which earned an Academy Award nomination for Hans Zimmer. The British-based Gustav Holst Foundation certainly thought so, and filed suit in London -- declaring that part of the movie's soundtrack -- including "The Battle" -- infringed the copyright on "Mars."

Here's a fascinating report from NPR's Tom Huizenga about the anniversary:

https://www.npr.org/artists/91322541/gustav-holst

 

Needs an update...

Pluto, the bringer of controversy. :P

:lol:

img_3945.jpg?w=535

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6 hours ago, hamradio said:

 

Needs an update...

Pluto, the bringer of controversy. :P

:lol:

img_3945.jpg?w=535

Pluto wasn't discovered until 14 years after Holst had completed "The Planets." He reportedly declined to add a movement about the now-downgraded heavenly orb.

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On 9/30/2018 at 7:24 AM, Sepiatone said:

Notice too, there never was a piece for EARTH. :huh:

I figured it was possibly because there already were enough "Pastoral" works composed to have it adequately covered.  ;)

Or perhaps he didn't find Earth to be as exciting as planets named for Greek and Roman mythological figures.

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Holst's "The Planets" has always been a great favourite of mine which I usually listen to at least once or twice a year (I'm overdue).

The Mars, Bringer of War opening always brings to my mind the vision of vast faceless armies on the march, ready to trample over anything in its way, while the later, gentler (Neptune, is it?) passage brings such a contrasting sense of peace and calm, as well as a vision for me of a sense of a twinkling eternity in the vast far reaching spaces of the solar system.

maxresdefault.jpg

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I think it's "VENUS, The Bringer Of Peace" is what you might have meant to state, as "NEPTUNE, The Mystic" is truly a piece that suggests mystery and ambiguity.  And, after MARS, Venus does calm things down a might.  ;)  Love both the orchestral and Tomita's electronic treatment of it.  :) 

Sepiatone

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I just listened to The Planets for the first time in a few months. My version has Herbert Von Karajan conducting the Berliner Philharmoniker.

R-2686562-1411045766-7742.jpeg.jpg

It was glorious, of course.

But this time I was amused to watch my two budgies' emotional reaction to the music, something I hadn't even considered when putting on the CD.

During the opening Mars Bringer of War they were aroused and chirping in excitement, their feathers bristling, their bodies alert as they hopped back and forth in the cage. By the time of the sounds of the final fadeout notes of Neptune, the Mystic they were still and quiet, no movement of any kind.

I wonder if their response would have pleased Gustav Holst.

Gustav-Holst.jpg

 

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8 hours ago, TomJH said:

Holst's "The Planets" has always been a great favourite of mine which I usually listen to at least once or twice a year (I'm overdue).

The Mars, Bringer of War opening always brings to my mind the vision of vast faceless armies on the march, ready to trample over anything in its way, while the later, gentler (Neptune, is it?) passage brings such a contrasting sense of peace and calm, as well as a vision for me of a sense of a twinkling eternity in the vast far reaching spaces of the solar system.

 

Well Tom, if you'd read my post about "The Planets"  (it's the second one on the thread), you'd have seen that I mentioned "Neptune", saying it was my favourite of the pieces ( along with "Jupiter"), and that it was "mysterious".  Although, as we all know, Neptune was the god of the sea, Holst seems to think he was also a mystic, which is how he titled the Neptune composition.

( At first I thought it was the "Saturn" piece, but I corrected myself in an edit in that same post.)

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9 hours ago, TomJH said:

Holst's "The Planets" has always been a great favourite of mine which I usually listen to at least once or twice a year (I'm overdue).

The Mars, Bringer of War opening always brings to my mind the vision of vast faceless armies on the march, ready to trample over anything in its way, while the later, gentler (Neptune, is it?) passage brings such a contrasting sense of peace and calm, as well as a vision for me of a sense of a twinkling eternity in the vast far reaching spaces of the solar system.

maxresdefault.jpg

Tom, I just thought of something else about that "Neptune" piece. Although this is admittedlly a long shot.

So, you're from Toronto, I think?? Did you ever go to the Royal Ontario Museum? In their dinosaur exhibit ( now changed of course, this was years ago) they had an area that played Holst's "Neptune" constantly, I think it must have been some kind of loop. The dinosaur display was kind of dark and mysterious, and naturally, that music rendered it even more so. I remember just standing there in that half light, the images of those giant ancient creatures before me in their display cases, listening to that eerie music. It went so well with that part of the museum. Long gone, of course. I'm just telling about this in the extremely unlikely chance that you might know what I'm talking about, since I know you lived in Toronto at some point.

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23 minutes ago, misswonderly3 said:

Tom, I just thought of something else about that "Neptune" piece. Although this is admittedlly a long shot.

So, you're from Toronto, I think?? Did you ever go to the Royal Ontario Museum? In their dinosaur exhibit ( now changed of course, this was years ago) they had an area that played Holst's "Neptune" constantly, I think it must have been some kind of loop. The dinosaur display was kind of dark and mysterious, and naturally, that music rendered it even more so. I remember just standing there in that half light, the images of those giant ancient creatures before me in their display cases, listening to that eerie music. It went so well with that part of the museum. Long gone, of course. I'm just telling about this in the extremely unlikely chance that you might know what I'm talking about, since I know you lived in Toronto at some point.

Actually I live in Mississauga, just outside of Toronto, MissW. I went to the museum when I was a kid but that, unfortunately, was a looooong time ago. I rather doubt that they had Holst music in the background of the dinosaur display then and, even if they had, I probably would have responded more to it if they had been playing the music from The Flintstones. I would have been Yabba Dabba doing the lyrics, I'm sure.

My tastes in music are so much more refined these days. ;)

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My first recording of it TOM, was the STEINBERG recording with The Boston Symphony.  I had trouble finding it on CD, so I settled for the KARAJAN one you posted, but didn't like it as much.  Finally found Steinberg's recording on CD and was able to seel my Karajan copy to a friend.  ;)  (And too, the Steinberg version(also on DG) has a cooler cover....  :D )

Nothing really wrong with it, but we just like what we like for some reason....  I suppose if my first recording of it was with some other conductor, THAT would be my preference.  ;) 

Like, I have two recordings of SIBELIUS' symphony #3;  one by( and the first heard verson) OKKU KAMU and another with conductor COLIN DAVIS.  And, as the Kamu version WAS the 1st recording of it I heard, my favor DOES tend to drift in that direction.....  It took some time for me to finally find a CD of Kamu conducting it.  ;)

Sepiatone

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