February 24 - March 2, 1999
1 - Mars, The Bringer of
|The only way I can honestly review this piece is to
explain how I first heard it:
On Feb. 13, 1999, I went to see "Shakespeare In Love" at the fabulous Magestic Theatre in Conway, NH. The crowd was still filling and the movie hadn't started yet. This was starting to be an excellent night - there was a growing crowd to nearly 100 people and I was seeing a film I had been anxious for for several months and I was about to see it in my favorite theatre! I had walked in and they greeted my like a good friend who enjoys the theatre as much as a two lovers enjoy being together. (The theatre is an intimate experience for me. When it's good, it's bliss; when it's bad, I am very hurt inside.) I had bought two individual servings of small popcorns with real melted butter! (It don't get much better!) The management plays music before the film starts and they usualy play "Pure Moods", but tonight it was something else. I knew it wasn't the film score cause Ihave it and while it is beautiful, it didn't compare to what I was hearing! I heard thunder, sweat melodies that were so complex and the waves of orchestras were literally carrying me! I closed my eyes and was in Heaven! Was this the reason I camehere tonight?? No, it wasn't, but what a wonderful reason to go to the Majestic that night! Then the music stopped and the film began. Would this be the end of the music? Would I never learn what I was hearing? Alas, no. I would indeed discover what I had been hearing! At the end of teh film, I asked the management what I was listening to before the film and he ran upstairs to the camera room and brought down the CD for me to see. It was Holst's Planets. I nearly dropped my mouth on the floor. The music was so dramatic I thought I was listening to a new or maybe a classic film score! I never heard a classical piece with that much drama. The kind of beauty that makes you want to cry! I ran to every place in North Conway and Berlin, NH that sold music, including the store I work at. No one had the composition! Aghast! What would I do? Well, I wasn't in fear yet - I wasto leave for Portsmouth,NH to see a friend a couple days later and would search for it then.
Well, I found it and what joy, what rapture, what Godsend I have heard! the thunderus sounds of Mars to the all-knowing whispers of Saturn. The sounds rise up and down like a tumoltuos ocean against a quiet shore. That's my experience with this piece of classical music, the first piece I ever rushed out to buy and absolutely fell in love with!!! Now, to show I've done my homework, a little history lesson for you about THE PLANETS by Holst.
Holst lived from 1874-1934. The Planets was inspired in 1913 when he visited Clifford Bax, a star gazer and writer. Holst was always interested in astrology and the stars. Horoscopes were a hobby to him and he was a skilled reader of them. (Meaning he could study the planets and the stars, the zodiac, etc... and discover what your horoscpes were.) Holst said, "As a rule, I only study things which suggest music to me. That's why I worried at Sanskrit. Then recently the character of each planet suggested lots to me, and I have been studying astrology fairly closely." However, he didn't begin writing The Planets yet because, "Never compose anything unless the not composing of it becomes a positive nuisance to you." Finally, in the summer of 1914, a year later from his inspiration, he could no longer resis the call of The lanets and so conceived the pieces.
Like a lover, Holst let The Planets have its way with him. The compositions took nearly three years for him and was originaly written for two pianos, probably because he had severe athritis and and was having extreme pain writing with his hands. In 1917, two fellow faculty members of St. Paul's Schol in London helped write the pieces into complete orchestral movements with Holst's guidance.
The pieces are tonal pictures of general human conditions. Holst declared that Saturn, The Bringer of Old Age was his favorite movement. Says Holst of his movements: "These pieces were suggested by the astrological significance of the planets. There is no program music in them, neither have they any connection with the dieties of classical mythology bearing the same names. If any guide to the music is required, the subtitle to each piece will be found sufficient..."
Richard Capell says the following about the end of Holst's Planets, "The dark remains dark, the question is left open..." resource: the liner notes to Hlst by Richard E. Rodda