Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Sunday, September 29

Holst (and Colin Matthews) in outer space

Synopsis

One of the most popular works of 20th-century orchestral music, “The Planets” by Gustav Holst, had its first performance on today’s date in 1918. This was at a private concert at Queen’s Hall, London, under the baton of Adrian Boult, who later became one of the most famous interpreters of this work. The first public performance of excerpts from “The Planets” took place in February of 1919, after which it quickly became Holst’s best-known composition.

The great success of “The Planets” actually dismayed Holst, who feared it would create a demand for more orchestral works in the same vein, and Holst always liked to do something new and different. He never considered “The Planets” anywhere near his best work, but posterity disagrees.

Holst’s seven-movement orchestral suite is based on the symbolic astrological associations of the planets. Only seven planets are represented because Pluto had yet to be discovered when the music was written. This omission has recently been rectified by a contemporary English composer, Colin Matthews.

At the request of conductor Kent Nagano, Matthews composed a “Pluto” movement, which had its premiere performance in England in May of the year 2000. Matthew’s new piece has also been recorded, as you might expect, as an occasional eighth planetary appendix to new recordings of Holst’s original seven.

Music Played in Today's Program

Gustav Holst The Planets Montréal Symphony; Charles Dutoit, cond. London 460 606

Colin Matthews (b. 1946) Pluto Hallé Orchestra; Mark Elder, cond. Hyperion 67270

Additional Information

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