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Thread: Your Favorite of Holst's Planets (Poll & Discussion)

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    Senior Member Minor Sixthist's Avatar
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    Default Your Favorite of Holst's Planets (Poll & Discussion)

    The Planets suite, as a whole, has been a favorite of mine for a long time. I suppose as an orchestral musician who started reasonably early, it's common to be introduced to one of the more known movements in elementary groups through band or orchestra arrangements. Early exposure could certainly open the book to exploration, and I value how my opinion on this epic set of pieces has matured and changed as I explored them further, especially as I got to play 6 of the 7 movements with a great symphony orchestra this past summer.

    The dearest planet to me would have to be Saturn. I feel like it's a lesser-loved gem of the piece, with special depth and attention to detail. Saturn is the god of time and aging in Roman myth, analogous to Kronus in Greek myth, and from the sparse beginning section with that distinct repeated whole step, just up and down like a sluggish clock ticking, in the woodwinds/celeste and off the strong beat, the movement is immediately eerie, disturbed, and imploring. The next section is brought on my bass pizzicati that seem to speed the clock up, into this beautiful, soft trombone chorale, growing eventually into this really incredible climax — there's this part in that climactic moment where the trumpet seems to scream a desperate question at the universe (I-V movement) and the question seems to just be countered in the (V-I) that directly follows. The tuba has this concluding line that seems to go somewhere but ends up slowing into nothing. I see the asker just shrinking away with no answer, unfulfilled and subject as ever to the changing tides of time and the looming of death.

    The piece reaches a second climax in what sounds to me like death stomping around among the scared mortals looking for its next victim, those heavy footfalls heard in very low gravelly notes from the low brass. When it seems all hope it lost, it once again starts to soften, and in the ending sequence there's this beautiful cascading line between the woodwinds and strings. The violins reach up to the VI of the scale when the audience might have expected a V instead; but it's not over there, because they repeat that line again, now reaching up to this absolutely glorious VII degree that just sounds like this blissful, cathartic release, and relief. I could never stop smiling and enjoying that moment from the back of the stage as I listened to them hit that beautiful note.

    This movement has so much to be explored. I'm including Dutoit's recording with the Montreal Symphony. Hopefully some of you can appreciate this amazing movement as much as I do. I could talk about Uranus too, which is a close second for me, but I'll have time to discuss that in the comments if someone mentions it.



    What are your favorite planets, as Holst interprets them? And why?

    Edit: I originally tried including a poll, as the title implies. However, because of what I view as quite a confounding and frustrating design, one can't just create the poll as they're creating the post. Even though I ticked the box and put in 7 options, it seems you make the poll after posting the original thread. I've always had trouble with them on this site, it's a pain. At one point I pressed 'enter' thinking the poll options would pop up, but instead the thread just posted prematurely... without a poll. The poll is just completely lost now. Bad design for sure, but I suppose we could just achieve the same effects as one in the comments here.
    Last edited by Minor Sixthist; May-25-2019 at 05:12.

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    A fine contender for "among the greatest of 20th century orchestral works" The Planets is. Especially under the baton of Adrian Boult. Two movements of the piece have garnered extensive playing time over my stereo system over the years, though, of course, I've listened to the work complete many a time (I have multiple interpretations in my collection) and have heard it in concert; I even have the score on my book shelf. But "Mars" and "Jupiter" (and I know you will have guessed those were the two movements I referenced!) remain my favorite movements of the work, and likely will continue so. The opening of the "Mars" movement trumps nearly everything else for sheer brute power and force, and that gorgeous melody of the "Jupiter" movement lingers in my consciousness long after the actual music has stopped from either a live orchestra or my stereo speakers. It comes down to: I don't know whether to make war or be jolly -- why not do both and listen to Holst's The Planets once again!

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    Jupiter .
    "Everyone is born with genius, but most people only keep it a few minutes"

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    Senior Member MatthewWeflen's Avatar
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    I enjoy Saturn as well, but I have to be in the mood for it. Jupiter and Mars always grab my attention when they come up.

    This Mars, Karajan's 1961 with the VPO, is my favorite. Volcanic and nearly unhinged, but stays together and terrifies. The Jupiter on the same disc is also superb.


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    Senior Member CnC Bartok's Avatar
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    Karajan's old Decca recording with the VPO is my favourite recording too!

    I'd say Mars and Jupiter for me. And "I vow to thee my country" is a very stirring hymn!!

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    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Im gonna be totally predictable here and state that Jupiter is still my favourite movement simply because it is one of the most beautiful melodies in music. Dutoit, Ozawa and Handley smash it for me. I love Mars too.

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    Saturn for me - maybe because I'm getting old! I've been lucky enough to play the entire work at least a dozen times, probably more. Never tire of it; always fascinating and profound. The contrabassoon part is one of the great ones for that unwieldy instrument. I've never heard bad recording, but Dutoit and Handley and Ormandy are excellent, Holst's own recording essential, and Tomita's version reprehensible.

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    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    You know I've still never heard this work. I have the Dutoit/Montréal, got the CD for like a buck or two used. I better check it out one of these days.

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    Senior Member Kiki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mbhaub View Post
    .... and Tomita's version reprehensible.
    A side-track: I've yet to hear a crossover re-arrangement that works, at least not for me. Meco's disco arrangement of Star Wars, or the Bad Plus' jazz arrangement of The Rite of Spring, but Tomita's Planets stands out in the sense that, there's an almost defamatory quality to it. Maybe it's just me... To be fair, he could write decent orchestral music, but I suppose it was the synthesizer albums that sold.

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    You should! Turn the lights out, crank the volume up high, (a subwoofer really helps) and immerse yourself. Extraordinary music start to finish.

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    Senior Member Becca's Avatar
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    One that got excellent reviews but is not well known has become my go-to is by the Philharmonia/William Boughton. The recording is from Nimbus in 1988 and made in the Royal Albert Hall! The engineers managed to do an excellent job of capturing the sound and Albert Hall atmosphere but without it being absurdly reverberant.

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    My very favorite recording would be the John Eliot Gardiner/Philharmonia on DG.I`ve got the SACD version.IMHO the sound is stunning and I enjoy the performance.The conventional CD layer is still as impressive as any other version that I`ve heard.I also enjoy the Decca Karajan,the Handley,and the Boult/LPO.I hate the Stokowski(EMI)-way too willful with strange balances in recording.Read somewhere that the persistent G-Eb-A-B motif in Uranus is based on Holst`s initials ala Bach-Shostakovich.Also,Holst admired Schoenberg`s Five Pieces for Orchestra and originally thought of his work as being Seven Pieces for Orchestra.Indeed, the very beginning of Saturn sounds amazingly similar to the beginning of the 3rd piece,Summer Morning by a Lake.
    Last edited by brahms4; May-25-2019 at 18:59.

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    Senior Member Oldhoosierdude's Avatar
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    Huh, I just saw this thread. I usually jump on Planets discussions.

    My favorite movement is Saturn although it barely edges out Venus.

    I have the following recordings :
    Bernstein
    Boughton
    Boult 1970
    Dutoit
    Elder
    Gardner 2017 proms youth orchestra recording
    Goodman
    Handley
    Jurowski
    Leaper
    Levi
    Levine
    Mehta
    Ozawa
    Previn
    Sargent 1958.

    My favorite would most likely be the Goodman recording. Others at the top of the list are Ozawa, Elder, Jurowski. The rest aren't slouches either. The weakest being Gardner's Proms recording, but hey it's kids playing not professionals and the YouTube video is fantastic.
    I don't live in the past,
    there's no future in it.

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    I have to revise my earlier appraisal. This one, 50 years old, is now the top of the heap for me. It was always a top-contender. The conducting and playing are phenomenal. But now we can really hear it. The Blu Ray Audio disk in this is set is sensational. If you have a good AV set up, you need to hear this. I've listened four times this week and it's just remarkable how detailed the recording is. The picture isn't too good, but it's William Steinberg with the Boston Symphony.
    71R1bq6zJmL._SX522_.jpg
    Last edited by mbhaub; Oct-04-2019 at 17:27.

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    Senior Member Fabulin's Avatar
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    Jupiter, from Bernard Herrmann's recording

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