Suite from "The Planets"

From Wind Repertory Project
Gustav Holst

Gustav Holst (arr. Calvin Custer)

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General Info

Year: 1916 / 1991
Duration: c. 9:00
Difficulty: IV (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Hal Leonard
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $70.00   |   Score Only (print) - $7.50


1. Mars
2. Venus
3. Jupiter


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II
Trombone I-II
String Bass
Percussion I-II-III

(percussion detail desired)


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Together with his friend and follow composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, Holst played a major role in reenergizing 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.

- Program note by Kathy Boster

The Planets, composed for orchestra in 1915, is a suite of seven tone poems, each describing symbolically a different planet. The work has insistent odd meters of five and seven beats, thick streams of parallel triads, and an opulent instrumentation. The entire suite was first performed for a private audience in 1918 and in public, without Venus and Neptune, in 1919. This arrangement includes the Mars, Venus, and Jupiter movements.

Mars – The Bringer of War was complete in the composer's mind in the early summer of 1914, when the First World War was but an emerging threat. The work is dominated by a relentless hammering out of a 5/4 rhythm which suggests the relentless destruction of war. The opposition of harmony and rhythm is skillfully used to produce a startling aural and emotional effect. This movement was transcribed for band by the composer.

Venus – The Bringer of Peace is the Roman goddess whose functions encompassed love, beauty, sex, fertility, prosperity and desire. In Roman mythology, she was the mother of the Roman people through her son, Aeneas, who survived the fall of Troy and fled to Italy. Julius Caesar claimed her as his ancestor. Venus was central to many religious festivals, and was revered in Roman religion under numerous cult titles.

Jupiter – the Bringer of Jollity is introduced by a genial syncopated dance, appropriately so since a happy and festive mood is maintained throughout this movement. Holst's love of English folk song and dance is readily demonstrated here. The middle section presents a surprising contrast – a majestic flowing melody in 3/4 meter which Holst later used for a patriotic song.

- Program Note from Program Notes for Band


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State Ratings

  • Virginia: IV


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Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

All Wind Music


  • Gibbs, Alan. "How did Holst conduct 'The Planets.'" Tempo, vol. 66, no. 261, July 2012, pp. 51-58.
  • Holst, G.; Custer, C. (1991). Suite from The Planets by Gustav Holst [score]. G. Schirmer: [U.S.]
  • List of Compositions by Gustav Holst, Wikipedia Access 14 September 2015
  • The Planets. Wikipedia. Accessed 6 August 2023
  • Smith, Norman E. (2002). Program Notes for Band. Chicago: GIA Publications, pp. 297.