Planets, The (tr Janssen)

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Gustav Holst

Gustav Holst (trans. Christiaan Janssen)

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General Info

Year: 2017
Duration: c. 55:00
Difficulty: VI (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Orchestra
Publisher: Baton Music
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - €475.00   |   Score Only (print) - €75.00


Full Score
C Piccolo I-II
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
Solo B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Saxophone
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III-IV
Horn in F I-II-III-IV-V-VI
Trombone I-II
Bass Trombone
String Bass
Harp I-II

(percussion detail desired)<!rg-->


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Together with his friend and follow composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, Holst played a major role in re-energizing English concert music by injecting it with the spirit, and at times the letter, of the country's folk music. Both composers also created music in a more cosmopolitan style, such as this engaging, brilliantly scored suite for orchestra. The Planets is widely thought of as Holst's most popular composition, much to his chagrin.

When it came to outside interests, Holst usually concerned himself only with those that stimulated his creative imagination. During a tour of Spain in 1913, a fellow traveler, author Clifford Bax, introduced him to astrology. Soon afterwards, Holst wrote a friend, “...recently the character of each planet suggested lots to me, and I have been studying astrology fairly closely."

The large-scale orchestral suite that resulted from this interest depicts the astrological characters of seven planets in our solar system (he didn’t include Earth since it is astrologically inert, and Pluto had yet to be discovered). These characters differ from their mythological personalities, although Holst's portrait of Venus manages to conjure both her mythological beauty and her astrological peacefulness.

Until recently, there was no complete transcript of the suite in existence for concert band. Students had arranged (not transcribed) Mars and Jupiter for concert band in 1924, but had not arranged any of the other movements for such an ensemble.

- Program note by Kathy Boster

A composition of significant notoriety that continues to amaze audiences in both its original orchestra version and its various arrangements, The Planets remains a welcome addition in the concert hall, and with this fascinating piece comes a compelling origin. Holst was present in 1914 for a composition one would not think to associate him with -- Schoenberg’s Five Pieces for Orchestra, a piece that amazed him to the degree that he quickly procured the score (the only score of Schoenberg he ever owned), and which inspired him to begin composing The Planets under the working title Seven Pieces for Large Orchestra.

Each movement is provided a name based on the planets in astrology, hence the exclusion of certain celestial bodies such as the Earth or Sun, while Pluto would not be discovered until 1930. The topic of astrology had been one of interest for Holst long before he began work on The Planets, and we do not know at what point he went from the composition’s working title to the name it bears today, but the connection between the two is anything but subtle. However, astrology did not rule over every detail, as seen in the order of the movements, where the composition begins with Mars, despite the most obvious first movement being the first astrological body and the movement that was labeled as number one in Holst’s sketches, Mercury. Lastly, Holst denies any relationship between the composition and World War I, having completed Mars months before war’s outbreak in August, 1914.

Holst completed The Planets in 1916, yet a complete public performance of the composition was delayed until 1920. Prior to that, it had received a private performance in 1916 under the baton of Adrian Boult as a gift to another English composer, Balfour Gardiner. Holst was not present at the time and both Venus and Neptune were excluded from this performance. Holst had not been too successful a composer up until now, only receiving recognition sporadically, which changed eight months prior to the premier of The Planets with a different composition, The Hymn of Jesus, providing Holst with a public spotlight he had never been presented with before. In 1921, Holst had received twenty-four significant programs or reviews of his music, twice that of the year prior, and in 1922 that number had increased to thirty-three performances. In addition, people had begun to take an interest in the composer’s earlier compositions. While The Planets had received tremendous success, Holst would begin to view the composition less optimistically, believing it to be passé as he had matured as a composer and allowed himself to approach musical decisions in a different manner than before. Regardless, The Planets remains a cornerstone of the orchestral repertoire and continues to be enjoyed by performer and listener alike.

- Program Note from State University of New York, Fredonia, Wind Symphony concert program, 25 April 2019


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State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Yale (New Haven Conn.) Concert Band (Thomas Duffy, conductor) - 26 February 2022
  • Grand Street (New York) Community Band (Brian Worsdale, conductor) – 18 May 2019

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

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